In some ways, the story of the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown will come as no surprise: founded by William Mitchell in 1872, the distillery prospered until the postwar economic downturn of the 1920s. It changed hands several times before finally closing its doors in 1925. Its buildings, emptied of distilling apparatus, then saw use as, among other things, rifle range until it was resurrected in 2004 by Michell’s Glengyle Ltd, a subsidiary of J&A Mitchell. The twist comes from the fact that Mr Hedley Wright, chairman of J&A Mitchell, is the great-great nephew of William Mitchell, Glengyle’s original founder. Clearly, this was unfinished family business.
Although a relatively minor player in the whisky industry, J&A Mitchell’s portfolio includes the independent bottler William Cadenhead (Scotland’s oldest independent bottler) and the Springbank distillery: clearly, this is a company that knows its way around the craft sector of the market. It’ll come as no surprise that the whole range is non-chill-filtered and without colouring.
By now, a few of you will wonder why an article about a Kilkerran whisky is rambling on about the Glengyle distillery. In the intervening years, the Fraser MacDonald Distillery Co began producing a “Glen Gyle” blended whisky and was unwilling to sell the name. The distillery instead adopted Kilkerran, derived from the original name for Campbeltown, as its brand.
While the Glengyle distillery has maintained a steady drumbeat of batch releases and “work in progress” bottlings, its core range comprises of just three drams: an 8-year-old cask strength, a 12-year-old, and a recently released 16-year-old. The team consider the Aged 12 Years to be their “signature” whisky; this is what we will be sampling today.
Kilkerran Aged 12 Years
Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky
46%ABV; matured in 70% ex-bourbon and 30% sherry.
No added colouring, not chill filtered
£45 (Master of Malt)
Nose: Oak, toasted almond and desiccated coconut are joined by lighter notes of zesty lemon, cherry, and vanilla. This is tied together by a very slight hint of peat
Palate: Delightfully balanced. The sweetness from vanilla, marshmallow, citrus zest, and honey is met with butter popcorn, malted milk biscuit, and a cinnamon spice warmth.
Finish: A medium, warm finish, like a lemon sherbet slowly dissolving on your tongue.
Opinion: This really is a delightful dram. It’s light enough to make for easy sipping but still complex enough to warrant a serious inspection. It’s somehow interesting and inoffensive. The Kilkerran Aged 12 Years is balanced in more than just its flavours.
I’m particularly impressed by how peat contributes to this whisky. It’s extremely lightly peated – the Kilkerran website says its barley is about 15 ppm phenols once it has been malted. This makes peat very much the supporting act in this dram. You will barely notice it’s there, but it helps tie everything together.
The Kilkerran Aged 12 Years sells out fast, so it can prove challenging to find a supplier who has it in stock. Given the price for which this whisky is available, it’s easy to see why: this does represent an excellent value dram. This is probably why Kilkerran features so prominently on the resale market: the great value of these whiskies make them attractive prospects for flippers. It’s worth going out of your way to find it: if this dram were slightly easier to track down, I think it would be a permanent fixture on my whisky shelf.