Campbeltown is a small town in the extreme west of Scotland which used to claim to be the “whisky capital of the world”, with 30 distilleries operating within it’s local area. These glory days are now behind it, and with only 3 distilleries now operating in Campbeltown it only just meets the minimum requirements to be a protected locality, such as Speyside, Highland or Islay.
This is thanks in no small part to J&A Mitchell & Co, the company that operates Springbank and Glengyle distilleries, and also own the Cadenheads chain of specialist whisky shops and independent bottlers.
Glengyle, which produces Kilkerran whisky, was acquired by J&A Mitchell in 2000 and returned to operation in 2004 and has since produced numerous single malt offerings including several NAS “work in progress” bottles. It’s core range consists of the 12 year old at 46% and a cask strength 8 year old which varies in ABV according to batch. They are also on the verge of releasing a “Heavily Peated” NAS cask strength version. All releases from this distillery, as with everything produced by Cadenheads and Springbank is un-chill filtered with no added colourants. Impressive stuff.
Kilkerran is prepared to the same specifications as Springbank, being lightly peated and made up of 30% ex-sherry casks and 70% ex-bourbon, although it is double distilled rather than the famous 2.5x distillation of Springbank.
The nose of Kilkerran 12 is a touch restrained, even with the addition of a little water to open it up. There’s fresh vanilla oakiness present with some light grassy notes and a coastal saltiness. Perhaps a hint of peat in the background. It’s all fairly light and inoffensive. Very pleasant, but un-challenging. It doesn’t particularly prepare you for the treat that awaits on the palate.
The flavour of this dram is where things really kick off. A few drops of water do wonders for it, making the arrival beautifully well paced with hot spicy notes, masses of mouth filling flavour and the mixed cask influence singing in harmony with the peat to perfection. The cask selection and, more importantly, the expertise and care of the people who make this whisky is truly what turns this into a next-level dram. If proof were needed of that it is the fact that although the Kilkerran spirit is created in totally seperate stills to Springbank, the quality is equal.
I toured Springbank and Glengyle distilleries in August 2018, and they truly are making whisky 100% on their own, to their own specifications and exceedingly high standards. The quality is self evident, and in my opinion Mitchell’s is the greatest whisky company in operation today. Kilkerran 12 is their newest addition and it’s a winner. A dram truly deserving of being the flagship for a proper, honest and independent distillery.