Tasting: Kilkerran 12 yo (Inaugural release)

Kilkerran 12 yo (Inaugural release)Dram data:
Distillery: Glengyle
Bottler: Original Bottling
Distilled: 2004
Bottled: September 2016
Age: 12
Limitation: –
Casks: 70% ex-bourbon +30% ex-sherry
Alcohol: 46%
Unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Twelve long years ago I had just finished school and started my mandatory military service. But twelve years ago, in the “wee toon” of Campbeltown, a miracle happened: A new distillery was born. The owners of Springbank distillery decided to revive the old buildings of the Glengyle distillery, and industry legend Frank McHardy was given the order to carry out the task. And now, in fall of 2016 we can finally taste the first “finished” product after a series of “Work in progress” bottlings, the last of which were truly spectacular, especially last year’s bourbon matured release. Needless to say, expectations are very high but I’m sure we won’t be disappointed!

Tasting notes:
The nose is exactly as I expected it to be! Just like the last bottlings, this redefines a light spirit character. This is everything but a modern in-your-face whisky. This is a style almost lost in today’s wood-driven, over-finished marketplace. But how is it? Well, there’s a very light amount of peat (the malt is produced to Springbank style specification) mixed with light fruits, Campbeltown salt notes and a slight mineral note. Very elegant. We’ve got tinned tangerines, apricots, white peaches, sweet grapes, pears, apple peelings and the tiniest pinch of oriental spices. All of those fruits are served next to freshly ground chalk stones on the Campbeltown pier with the smoke from a distant peat fire drifting by. Very well put together, everything is so much more than the sum of its parts. Oh, and did I mention it keeping a light and delicate, yet never fragile profile? No marketing department would order something like that, they’d have it smothered under extreme sherry cask pressure… With water: Slightly rounder and more light fruits. The palate is quite mineral on the arrival, mouth-coating, with the fruits coming through. This does, however, scream for the addition of a tiny bit of water and some time in the glass – be right back! Ah yes! Light peat mixed with a pinch of salt and white pepper sharpness and lemon rind at first, making way for light fruits – a mix of grapes, apricots, white peaches, red apples (with peel) and dry pears. The slight mineral note in the background is back too. Just like the nose, this is a very welcome light style of whisky, bordering on being austere – in a very good way. Light, but at the same time with lots going on, keeping it fresh and interesting throughout. Yesteryear’s Bourbon release was slightly richer, but that one was a truly exceptional dram and this 12yo is certainly excellent as well! The medium long and slightly dry finish is surprisingly zesty upon swallowing, but the light fruits are not far behind and so are the light peat smoke and the mineral notes. Just as expected from a light whisky style.

Can you tell I’m in love with this already? If you’re looking for a big, heavy-hitting whisky, I suggest you buy a bottle of Springbank 12yo cask strength instead. But if you like an almost austere, light, fruity, yet  at the same time complex style that’s rarely seen so well-executed these days, then this is definitely for you. Comparing it to last year’s notes I do notice las year’s Bourbon release (92/100) to have been a bit more oily and with richer fruits, but it is undeniably the same style of distillate, and this 12yo release also has 30% (dry?) ex-Sherry casks mixed in, so you can’t directly compare them.
By the way: In today’s whisky market, how much do you think they’re charging for a bottle of their first-ever 12yo whisky? 100€? 150€? Others certainly would, but not Springbank distillers – I bought a bottle for a mere 45€, which is a very reasonable price for what you’re getting, especially considering the very low production volume of about 10-12.000 litres per year (not sure whether that’s bulk litres or LPA), which amounts to about 1/10th of what Kilchoman produces and they are tiny! Hats off to the guys in the wee toon for not making us bend over backwards and “keeping it real”.

Score: 91/100
(Nose: 91 Palate: 91 Finish: 90)

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