Glengyle’s Micro-Production, Old School Campbeltown Single Malts – Scotch Whisky News

Must-Have Single Malts from the Best Distillery You Don’t Know
“There are few more interesting and important whiskies on the shelf than the wonderful Glengyle Distillery malts.”—David Othenin-Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer

Among the best-kept secrets in single malt Scotch, the Kilkerran Campbeltown whiskies from Glengyle distillery are produced in minuscule quantities. Indeed, we’re talking some of the smallest production in all of Scotland, producing only a few months a year. Glengyle also holds the distinction of being one of only two Scottish distilleries to employ the highly traditional, inefficient hand-malting process. The other is Glengyle’s sister distillery, the widely renowned and revered Springbank. In fact, it is Sprinkbank’s team that crafts this exceptional dram.

Despite only being established in 2004, Campbeltown’s first new distillery in some 125 years has thrilled the small cadre of aficionados who have had the good fortune to find these insiders’ gems. With their devotion to Campbeltown tradition, Glengyle makes the Kilkerran Heavily Peated Batch No. 1 in a purposeful, old-school profile meant to serve as a window into the history of the region and the expression of a long lost style that’s now basically unheard of in the Highlands. Not to be overlooked, the 8-year and 12-year bottlings are some of the most compelling in their price ranges and offer a spectacular show of stylistic diversity from one distillery, a result of the intense labor that goes into Glengyle’s methods. At pricing that beats the current market rates by a comfortable margin, these incredible whiskies are must-haves for any devotée of pure single malt character.

Kilkerran (Glengyle) 12 Year Old Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($64.99)

Whisky Advocate: “After six Work in Progress releases, Kilkerran from Glengyle Distillery has finally come of age with this core expression. It comprises 70% whisky from first-fill bourbon casks and 30% from sherry casks. Floral on the nose, with honey and a hint of brine, then peaty fruit notes develop. The palate is confident and oily, slightly earthy, with tinned peaches, black pepper, cinnamon, smoke, and a suggestion of medicine chests. The finish is relatively long, with pepper, licorice, and drying oak. (GS, Winter 2016)”

K&L Notes: When the doors opened at the Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery in March of 2004, it became the first new distillery to open in Campbeltown in more than 125 years. Campbeltown, once the center of whisky production for Scotland, had been hit hard over the last century and had dwindled down to two distilleries—Springbank and Glen Scotia. When the SWA threatened to take away the Campbeltown appellation, Springbank was told a region needed at least three distilleries to consider itself a specific locale. The decision was then made to reopen the long-dormant Glengyle distillery located immediately next door to Springbank. Kilkerran is the name that was chosen for the single malt produced at Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery because the name Glengyle is already used for a blended Highland malt and they wished to avoid any possible confusion between the newest single malt to come from the Campbeltown region and a pre-existing blended Highland malt. The flavor of the Kilkerran is a little bit of everything, offering something of a renaissance style that can be described as classically Highland. Very few malts offer so much complexity while remaining absolutely approachable. The quality of this malt is not to be undersold, it truly represents an authentic expression of the old way to make Scotch and delivers more enjoyment than just about any other whisky for your dollar in the shop. A mixture of 70% ex-bourbon barrels and 30% first and second fill sherry butts. A benchmark malt.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 08, 2019

There are few more interesting and important whiskies on the shelf than the wonderful Glengyle Distillery malts. The Kilkerran brand has such an interesting story, basically Springbank’s big middle finger to the SWA for trying to screw them out of a regional designation, but what’s even more interesting than the origin story are the incredible malts themselves. Many of our customers know and love the idiosyncratic malts distilled just down the road at Springbank. The 12 year old Kilkerran is the perfect example of how a slight difference in the process can significantly affect the flavor, texture and character of a whisky. This is essentially a slightly less peated version of the same malt that goes into the classic Springbank. It sees a more modern mashing process and a similar, if slightly cleaner, fermentation in traditional Larch vats. The wash is then distilled on the old Ben Wyvis stills, modified slightly to fit in the stone walls of Glengyle and produce the character of whisky that Mitchell was looking for. Tilted slightly up, the spirit produced here has some oiliness but also a purity that is that isn’t as obvious at Springbank. This is in many ways my perfect malt whisky. The nose billows out of the glass with sweet citrus, mineral/petrol, powerful herbs and deep clean smokiness. On the palate, it’s obviously peated, but not acrid and so wonderfully old school. Chewy texture, lemon balm, lanolin, chalk mineral, salted stone fruit and ocean spray. Tangy, structured, long, salty and satisfying as it finishes- there’s nothing quite like this out on the market this today.

Jeffrey Jones | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 28, 2016

This single malt is very easy to drink and enjoy. It is creamy, rich and soft with an interesting complexity. It also has a lively and fresh nuance to it that helps make it an exciting addition to our single malt selection.Very good.

Kilkerran (Glengyle) “Heavily Peated” Batch No. 1 Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($69.99)

The wonderful Kilkerran distillery is one of Scotland’s smallest in terms of production. Like the other J&A Mitchell distillery, Springbank, the malts made the Glengyle distillery are 100% handmalted primarily from local barley and always 100% Scottish barley, making them the only 100% hand malted distilleries in Scotland. The stills were acquired by Glengyle from the old Ben Wyvis distillery, which operated only from 1965 to 1977 and while the hand malting is the hallmark of all the J&A Mitchell’s products, the Kilkerran malts have a distinct character compared to its cousin down the road. This is the first heavily peated (upwards of 45ppm) offering from the small distillery. These small releases are always undervalued when they’re released and coveted once they’re sold out. There isn’t a lot of fanfare around these products because there’s absolutely no marketing budget here, but the real connoisseurs who understand the difference between modern “Scotch” and truly authentic single malt always jump on the special Kilkerran batches. Batch No. 1 of the Heavily Peated series is aged in a mix of 55% ex-bourbon and 45% ex-sherry. Bottled at a heady 118.6 proof, this special whisky is like a window into another time. Heavily peated Highlanders are rare and the only other handmalted one is the Longrow mark made down the road. An absolutely exquisite expression of a long lost style that exemplifies what young Campeltown malt might have been like 100 years ago.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 08, 2019

There are few more satisfying malts than the Kilkerran lineup, and the new Heavily Peated is no exception. This guy is peated up to the level of a Longrow, but trucked down the road to the new old stone distillery. Biggest difference here between Longrow and Kilkerran HP are the mash, fermentation times, still shape, and condensers. Despite the high peat level there’s a restraint that isn’t found in the Longrow products. Perhaps it’s the slightly upturned lyne arms or the quicker fermentation, but the peat is hidden slightly behind a kind of salty earthiness. For the nose, expect subtle salted nuts, kippers, old leather armchair, lightly roasted coffee bean, camphor, and quince. The palate is decidedly more peaty, but this stuff doesn’t start to really speak until you’ve doused it a bit. Now a bit more peat and more camphor, pithy lemon peel, purity, and tension. A feeling of being in a harbor with tugs and fish boats coming and going, the ocean roaring outside the break, the Mull of Kintyre in the distance. On the palate, unctuous and oily, but linear and focused. Big sooty smoke, salted fish, exotic herbs, wild fruit, menthol – analgesic, numbing, and delicious. A fabulous ancient style of whisky that has almost no correlate in the modern whisky world.

Diana Turk | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 13, 2019

This is a Scotch that will put hair on your chest yet still manages to feel balanced. Although I’m not a superfan of peated whisky, I do count Kilkerran among my favorite distilleries, so I was excited to try our new “Heavily Peated” Batch No. 1 Campbeltown Single Malt. I may have initially let out a cough that made me feel like a cartoon dragon and I could have sworn a ring of smoke came out. But with water, this beast is easily tamed. There is an evocative salinity up front, followed by notes of coffee and caramel, tempered by insistent peat. The palate stays earthy and focused, with an extra herbal hit on the finish. This release will satisfy peatheads without overwhelming the senses, although it does conjure up a sense of place more than any other Scotch I’ve tried in recent memory. Plus, Kilkerran is making Scotch the old school way, so you’re essentially drinking history. Well worth the price.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: July 11, 2019

Sweet, oaky, and peaty, this expression has it all. Salted caramel apple, chocolate truffle, pencil shavings, and preserved kumquats waft from the glass and enthrall your olfactory senses. A literal, mmm escaped my vocal chords when I first put this to my lips; it was like drinking a sexy bbq. Light, exotic wisp of smoke entangles with soft layers of caramel chews and bbq potato chips without the cloying sweetness some can have. A mild sweet mint comes in towards the finish and just leaves you with a warm, pleasant tingling that keeps me coming back.

Kilkerran (Glengyle) 8 Year Old Cask Strength Bourbon Cask Single Malt Whisky (750ml) ($79.99)

The powerful and complex cask strength offering from the excellent Glengyle distillery is one of the most multifaceted and authentic malts on the shelf. Aged exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels for 8 years, this wonderful Kilkerran exemplifies the wild diversity this tiny distillery can offer. The reason every other distiller in Scotland doesn’t make whisky this way is efficiency, but also consistency. Each small batch of Kilkerran can have a very distinct style and that’s why we love them. This naked expression of a truly authentic single malt offers even the most developed palate something exciting. It loves water but doesn’t need a ton to find its best balance.

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