Online Tasting Week Bottle, May 2021
Type of whisk(e)y – Whisky (scotch).
How long has the whisk[e]y bottle been open? – Under 1 month.
Introduction to the whisk[e]y (casks used, distillery, is it a special release etc) – Matured for 5 years in “fresh” oloroso sherry casks. Released May 2021 as part of the Springbank/Cadenheads/Glengyle online tasting week. This of course vanished instantly from their official site upon release. You may still be able to locate some bottles on the auction/secondary market but I can’t speak to some of the prices you may encounter. Natural colour; no chill filtration. 58.2%.
Appearance – Tawny. Thick oily appearance, legs for days. No cloudiness until water is added.
Nose – The abv is relaxed in the glass, no nip at all. The first impression on the nose is that of density; a thick autumnal wave of dark rosy fruits with a gathering storm of smoke beginning to build. There are plums, blackberries, dried apricots, raisins, sultanas. Real toffee apple with a charred edge like cinder toffee. Leaf-fall, forest floor, rainy woodland. There’s a top-note that’s all rich oloroso sherry but it doesn’t take over, rather it provides a base for the other notes to build on. Lovely rich sweet peat and slumbering lazy smoke; not smoke on the breeze, this a freshly lit peat fire in a closed room. The peated spirit is balancing beautifully with the sherry cask. The longer this is left open in the glass the more the smokiness rolls out and mingles with the dark fruits. There’s rich cacao and there’s a zestiness popping out behind all of this, tangy like limoncello.
With water and some air and time, gentle blackcurrant comes forward, some sweet clove, flat lemonade, a bit of soft tobacco and a little black pepper. Hot damn what a nose – hopes are high for the palate…
Palate – Rich and oily texture, mouth coating and laden with flavour. The youth of the spirit makes its presence felt in the first few moments, this is a hot beginning but the spicey assault doesn’t last long. Then comes sweet rich peat smoke, carrying blackberry compote, cooked plums, a little raspberry. Burnt toffee apple again. Raisin/sultana, dried apricots. Grain-rich barnyard notes, hay and earth. Rounding out the mid-palate is dark 90% cacao chocolate that somehow develops into something approaching aniseed/liquorice. Bitterness from sherried oak.
A few drops of water brings that initial heat down, which is welcome. Aside from that there is little difference in the sequence of flavours, apart from a general softening and expansion. The development is longer, there is more oak smoke, more sultana, a little more bitterness to balance the sweet. The liquorice note starts earlier and lasts longer and there’s a slightly mineral edge to everything, a bit like a salt crust. The lemon note is softer and sweeter. Beautiful stuff.
Finish – Long and oily. A little gentle clove oil, then darkly sweet oakiness, dry sherry fruitiness and a whisp of smoke.
The Empty Glass Smell: Subdued: Soft smoke, soft berries, soft peat. A citrus edge, dying off…
Overall thoughts – Folks who have read any of my handful of review posts up to now will have realised that I’m a fool for a bottle of Kilkerran. It goes without saying that I was already looking forward to trying this and expecting it to be great… and it is. As much as it pains me to heap praise on a bottle that very few of us will be able to get our hands on (myself included), this is gorgeous stuff.
It’s rich, flavourful, peaty, sweet, earthy, smoky, fruity, mineralic, zesty; full of high and low notes, all demonstrating a beautiful balance between spirit and cask. No specific element is dominant and this leads to a lovely measured experience where each flavour and sensation leads to the next, each getting it’s moment to shine. I feel like I could have sat with this for hours. If I’d had the bottle to hand instead of just a sample I suspect it would have been difficult not to pour another dram or two.
The only moment that’s lacking is perhaps the bite and youthful heat of that spirity beginning when sipped neat – but a bit of water calms it down and lets things roll out in a more orderly fashion.
Comparing this to the flavour profiles of other Kilkerrans I’ve tried, I’d say this sits somewhere inbetween the Peat in Progress Batch 2 and the 8 Year Cask Strength oloroso 2021. It reminds me most of the Peat in Progress of course; Batch 2 had a higher proportion of sherry casks than the subsequent batches, which I prefer. Compared to this, the Peat in Progress 2 has more grassy and caramel notes from the bourbon casks in the mix. The 2021 8yr CS was almost overburdened with sherry but at 5 years this bottling is very nicely balanced. Peated Kilkerran spirit just mingles brilliantly with oloroso casks, and 5 years in such active casks seems like it’s approaching the sweet spot. Perhaps this is why Glengyle have gone to the bother of specifying on their website that this was matured in “fresh oloroso casks”, to prime the drinker for the heft of the sherry in this relatively young bottling, taming the smoke.
Very glad to have had the chance to try this. For my tastes this might be one of the better bottlings of Kilkerran, it certainly it sits on par with the best of the Peat in Progress releases. In my opinion Glengyle’s peated spirit can stand up to an oloroso cask with a little more gusto than its unpeated counterpart and the result is just a wonderful sipping experience.
Many thanks to Johnathan, @Jonnyraccoon1 (Twitter) for submitting his tasting notes, as comprehensive and informative as usual.
Find Johnathan on Reddit here – http://reddit.com/u/jonnyraccoonFollow @jonnyraccoon1