Kilkerran Glengyle Distillery 12 YR Single Malt Scotch
Kilkerran Glengyle Distillery 12 YR Single Malt Scotch
The nose shows roasted pineapple, vanilla, dried apricots, black pepper, nori, almonds, toffee, and brown sugar. The palate shows the light peat influence with smoked peanuts,butterscotch, dried stone fruits, lemon meringue, noyaux, and a gentle smoke to finish. D&M Tasting Notes
Before we get into the history of Kilkerran, we wanted to talk a little bit about Campbeltown and how this tiny town on the Kintyre peninsula came to factor so very importantly in Scotch Whisky history. The Kintyre peninsula has been inhabited for over 8000 years, and before Campbeltown was known for its whisky, it was a granted the status as a royal burgh, or Scottish acknowledged town. As we have stated in the past-- before the railroad and the road there was the sea as the primary means of bulk transportation. Campbeltown was a deep water port less than 50 miles by water from Glasgow that had plentiful access to peat and a rainy climate that ensured a steady water supply. Before the Excise Act, the number of illegal distilleries in Campbeltown were thought to number more than 60. Even after the Act as various families went legitimate, there were still 34 distilleries producing whisky giving the town the nickname “whisky capital of the world.”
The Glengyle distillery was founded by William Mitchell. He was a gentleman from a family that should be quite familiar to lovers of Scotch; his father was Springbank founder Archibald Mitchell. The family lore goes that William and his brother John got into a quarrel over sheep while jointly running Springbank (as well as being farmers on the side) so William struck out on his own. The extended Mitchell clan really were whisky moguls as they had interests in no fewer than 4 distilleries in town. In 1872 Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery opened down the street from Springbank and was run as a sole proprietorship through the remainder of the 1800s.
The late 1800s and early 1900s were a time of decline for Campbeltown as the construction of the railroad in the Speyside region allowed for alternative means of moving grain to distilleries and products to cities. William sold the Glengyle distillery to a consortium called West Highland Malt Distilleries in 1919, and the distillery was closed six years later. The buildings were well maintained over the years and used for everything from a shooting range to a storehouse for a farmer’s cooperative. The grain shortages of WWI and WWII combined with increased rail access in the highlands spelled decline for the seafaring ways of Campbeltown distilleries.
In the late 1990s there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the Scotch Whisky Landscape. The Scotch Whisky Association, the trade group closely aligned with the biggest players in Scotch, decided that they wanted to reduce the number of designated regions that Scotch came from. As there were three distilleries in the Lowlands, it was decided by the powers to be that you had to have three or more distilleries to be a “real region.” This didn’t make a lick of difference to the Diageo or William Grants of the industry, but to the JA Mitchell company in Campbeltown it was tantamount to erasing the history of the region. So in 2000, the chairman, managing director, and head of production at Springbank went for a walk around town. In truth they were looking at the various buildings that JA Mitchell owns to see which would be most suitable to be used as a distillery- both as a means of expansion and to regain Campbeltown’s (as they saw it) rightful place on the map.
After settling on Glengyle they embarked on a four year period of rebuilding and refurbishment led by legendary production manager Frank McHardy. In many ways Glengyle was to be JA Mitchell’s attempt to blend modernity with traditional practices. Mitchell’s Glengyle did not want to purchase the rights to the Glengyle brand from Loch Lomond, so they opted to create a new brand: Kilkerran.
“Kilkerran” is derived from the Gaelic Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain (head of the lake of St. Kieran’s cell). This was the name of the settlement founded by Saint Kieran, and it is believed that the town of Campbeltown now sits on that spot. The distillery as it stands is really a blend of new and old with 40% of the equipment being refurbished or reused from various distilleries around Scotland. The mill used for the malted barley came from Craigellachie in the Highlands which after being refurbished works as good as new. The still came from the mothballed Ben Wyvis Distillery which was where McHardy had worked over 3 decades prior.
The still was modified to provide the spirit that McHardy was after with an upwardly sloping lye arm that allowed for reflux and a lighter and brighter form of finished spirit. When the distillery began its first distillation run in March of 2004, it was the first “new” distillery in Campbeltown in 125 years. For a fantastic Scottish brogue delivered in a somewhat wooden style, this 6ish minute overview of Kilkerran production is worth a watch . After a period of No Age Statements, in 2016 Kilkerran first launched their calling card 12 years old, It is non-chill filtered and no coloring has been added to it- same as with other Springbank products. While we have seen a variety of barrels used for Kilkerran, the 12 year old is assembled from 70% Ex-Bourbon and 30% Ex-Sherry casks. Michael Kennel, D&M