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  • Writer's pictureHarold

Kilchoman STR Duo

It’s impossible to measure the lasting impression Dr. Jim Swan has had on the whisky industry. Before his unfortunate passing in 2017, he consulted on at least 15 new distilleries, providing invaluable information from setting up all of the production equipment to developing their cask program. A program which almost always included the use of the famous Jim Swan “STR” cask, formerly known as rejuvenated casks throughout the industry, but for some reason got rebranding once the good doctor started to champion them.


Today, I'm focusing on, possibly the only distillery which has used peated spirit in these casks, thus far. These two casks were being shopped around the US market during the crazy times of the pandemic, and I was fortunate to have been involved on the virtual tasting panel for the first pick.

 
Kilchoman 2011/9 Year  |STR Finish Single Cask| 7 Year Fresh Bourbon/STR Finish #227/2011 (Drammers Club Pick #43) - 53.4%

Kilchoman 2011/9 Year

|Single Cask| 7 Year Fresh Bourbon/STR Finish 227/2011 (Drammers Club Pick 43) - 53.4%


As a proud member (going on 7 years now) of one of the world’s largest whisky/spirits clubs, I was thrilled to have been randomly chosen, back in January 2021 to take part in the virtual selection process for the Drammers Club’s eventual 43rd pick we did with the brand’s Sales and Marketing Manager, and part owner, James Wills. Unlike some other selections, this cask was offered on more of a “take it or leave it” type basis with the understanding that it would find little trouble finding a happy home somewhere else, if need be. After drinking through the initial expressions, as planned, from the evening's tasting, the cask sample was the surprise bonus dram of the night, which happened to arrive unlabeled. Without any prior knowledge about the cask makeup, my initial thoughts were that this was a heavily cask-influenced sample, aged in either oloroso or port wood. I was a bit surprised when they announced that it was in fact, a 9 year old fresh bourbon cask finished for some time (eventually 19 months) in an ex-wine STR cask. I thought it was tasty, and perhaps meant for a sweet tooth but certainly unbalanced and lacking any real distillery character. Luckily the lone detractor of the group (myself) was not able to influence the rest of the committee’s decision as the final bottled product happen to taste vastly different than memory served. Which, as we all know, tends to be the case after a night filled with 10+ pours.


Appearance: Copper

First Whiff: Leathery smoked salmon

Nose: : Wonderful balance, definitely not like the over-oaked cask sample. There’s a plasticine/putty like minerality in the front, backed up by those salty/woodfire smoked salmon notes. Slight ginger spices. With water: Salted caramel and warm honey...more of a salmon candy now.

Palate: Thin, sleek, and warm. Classic, citrus driven distillate from Kilchoman leads the way…grapefruits and lemons. Rubbery peat, plastic band-aids, used pencil eraser. With water: More oily. Tarry now, a bit darker/wine cask notes appear…confectionary milk chocolate, espresso beans, ginger turns to cloves. This was more of what I was getting the from the cask sample.

Finish: : Medium, musty, rather tart citrus.


Summary: A pretty straightforward representation of Kilchoman in American oak, certainly emboldened by the STR finish. Good balance, thankfully but the oily/mouthcoating side needed to be persuaded out a bit by water. My mind needs to understand why there was such a difference between cask sample and bottling but presumably some of that oak might’ve been lightly filtered out during the cask’s disgorging. A thought for another day perhaps.

IDS SCORE: 88

 
Kilchoman 2012/9 Year  |STR Finish Single Cask| Ex Buffalo Trace/STR Finish #153/2012  (Binny's Beverage Depot) 55.5%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Kilchoman 2012/9 Year

|Single Cask| Ex Buffalo Trace/STR Finish 153/2012

(Binny's Beverage Depot) 55.5%


I wonder how many single casks are going to proudly mention “Ex-Buffalo Trace” in the future for Kilchoman, now that the partnership has been dissolved…by the former party, in this case. I believe they’re sourcing their bourbon barrels from Woodinville now, which by all accounts, should have little influence to the flavor profile but only time will tell, of course. Binny’s Beverage Depot, a well-established retailer in the Chicago area, here in the States picked this cask which (like the Drammers bottle) was also aged for 9 years in bourbon, then finished for 18 months in STR ex-red wine casks.


Appearance: Copper

First Whiff: Lay’s BBQ potato chips

Nose: Little sweeter…sweet mesquite style chips. Sooty citrus, caramelized oak and a slight, whispery/floral kind of smoke, aniseed perhaps. With water: Yep, more caramel, like before. More bbq, smoked meats too.

Palate: More syrupy than Drammers. Candied citrus…orange liqueur, shaved/toasted coconut flakes (irony??). With water: Salted caramel, some toffee. Slightly malty, like fried potatoes.

Finish: Alcohol driven. Oily citrus/lemony. Iodine soaked band-aids…yum.

Summary: Again, very singular but well balanced. Very similar to Drammers. Extra point for better mouthfeel.

IDS SCORE: 89

 

Kilchoman STR Duo

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