Saint Kilian is happy…. A new star is born PART 2 by Ernst J. Scheiner, The Gateway to Distilleries

Continued from


In 2018, the Kilian barley distillate White Dog was voted the world’s best new make by the London World Whisky Awards.

What does the new Kilian Whisky taste like?

The first St. Kilian German Single Malt bottling was limited to 760 bottles only. It was quickly sold out. For the general whisky inauguration, the experienced master brewer Mario Rudolf designed a Signature Edition Series to be continued by future releases.

The Signature Edition One is an exciting and multi-layered blend of 2016 distilled Kilian whiskies, each of which matured for three years in first fill Bourbon barrels (37%), Martinique Rhum pre-lined American oak barrels (37%), Pedro Ximénez Sherry barrels (18%) and first-fill Bourbon Quarter Casks (3%) from the Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, Texas. A special aromatic kick was initiated by five percent of toasted juvenile chestnut barrels. These refined the blend, which was vatted in a large tank for two days only. The whisky integrated individual aromas of the respective barrels and lead to a very distinctive taste profile. The small 50 litre quarter casks enhanced the impression of maturity, the PX casks gave colour, sweetness, mildness and aromas of dark fruits, while the French chestnut wood made the Kilian whisky softer. The rum casks made it sweeter wheras Bourbon barrels had contributed some notes of caramel, vanilla, ripe pineapple and toffee.

At the IWSC 2019 this German Single Malt Whisky was awarded 94 points out of 100.

The blending of distillates from different barrels was skilfully carried out by master blender Mario Rudolf. The sensory complexity generated by the vatting is a result of a highly sophisticated wood management system implemented at Sankt Kilian distillery. Some test trials were necessary as there had been no experience or tradition for the newly distilled spirits at Sankt Kilian distillery.

The German St. Kilian single malt whisky is a real surprise. The Signature Edition One is pleasing with its pronounced fruitiness. A bouquet of aromas of ripe apples, pears and apricots flows continuously into the nose. Impressions of pineapple, vanilla, caramel and honey follow. Malty barley tones emerge and recall youthful freshness of the whisky. Soft sweetness of toffee and honey unfolds on the palate, which gradually leads to a spicy, slightly peppery, ginger-like notion. In the end notes of bitter chocolate and some nuttyness flair up. For its young age, the whisky causes a well-balanced mouthfeel. There are no alcoholic pungent effects in the nose. The alcohol is harmoniously integrated in its overall appearance. A caramel-like sweetness lingers on for a medium length of time, however, it ends abruptly. The highly fruity single malt appears surprisingly harmonious for its young age. St. Kilian‘s whisky has reached a high degree of harmony and balance. Conclusion: The Signature Edition One by Sankt Kilian is a successful and enriching newcomer among international whiskies. The birthday boy doesn’t have to shy away from any international comparison at all.

Release Signature Edition Three. The Peaty St. Kilian Version

The newly released peated version follows the high quality levels set up by its predecessors. The peated malt (54ppm) supplied by Pauls Malt in Glenesk near Aberdeen gave the German whisky some sort of Scottish character. Scottish peated malt and Frankonian non-peated malt of the Pilsner style were mixed to a cocktail of 38ppm and then double distilled in 2016. Only Bourbon casks created the flavour profile of St Kilian Three. The destillates matured in charred barrels of American white oak, in which Bourbon whiskeys had previously experienced their aromatic flavour profile for a few years.

The Signature Edition Three is a vatting of young Kilian whiskies all of them just over three years old. They matured in fifteen first-fill Bourbon casks from Brown-Forman Distilleries, including Jack Daniel Distillery in Tennessee (94%) and in three small 50 litre quarter casks from Garrison Brothers Distillery in Texas (6%). As a rule, two-stage distillation reduces the phenol value of the malt in the distillate approximately to around one third. This reduction is quite noticeable in the cuvée. An opulently intrusive, medicinal and iodine smoke does not dominate at all, but rather a discreet pure campfire-like smoke is flattering the nose charmingly and pleasantly.

Master Distiller Rudolf likes the quarters from the southern U.S.-Austin region “because they bring so much character to the spirit, especially vanilla, caramel and spicy accents”. It is a well known fact that spirits mature faster in smaller barrels than in larger ones. The oak tannins, however, give the spirits more intense notes of astringent spiciness. In the larger Jack Daniel Barrels, flames change the hemicellulose of the of the American White Oak into sugar compounds, which during a maturing process produce in the distillate notes of brown sugar, caramel, and almond. The staves of the Bourbon barrels from Tennessee had been charred extremely long by the coopers under large gas flames for about 45 seconds which resulted in a char 4. They are ussually called crocodile or alligator char because of a crocodile-like incrustation of the stave’s inner surface. The barrel charring in the Garrisson Quarters was quite similar. According to Rudolf they were of “Char3 to Char4”. The charcoal crust does not only produce a dark amber colour in the Kilian whiskies, but also makes for intense vanilla notes as well as spicy aromas.

Final remarks

St. Kilian is an attractive cuvée of young three-year-old peaty whiskies from various Bourbon cask types. Master Blender Mario Rudolf perfectly blends the aroma profile of the individual whiskies. He uses their respective flavour profiles and embellishes thereby the overall harmonious appearance of the final vatting. The whiskies from the smaller quarter casks make for a complex of aroma profile. The aromatic and tasty quality of The Kilian Signature Edition Three is very impressive. Although it is still a young whisky the overall appearance is well balanced and full of harmony. It seems as if the Kilian Spirits feel quite at home in Bourbon barrels and mature surprisingly fast in them. This effect is partly the result of the reflux condenser of the spirit still which makes for a rather clean and fruity new make without any harsh notes at all.

The new peaty St Kilan became a well-balanced and beautiful whisky, which builds up charming fruity and smoky tensions from the nose to the palate. This Kilian does not need to shy away from comparisons with Scottish or international representatives of the same kind. The particular balanced fine aromatic quality of peat smoke in combination with the prominent fresh and fruity notes is amazing and awesome. The filling strength of 50% abv strengthens and widens sustainably the aromatic backbone of the single malt. This St. Kilian Signature Edition Three will also be liked by connoiseurs who are not members of the peat-freak-fraction.

History to remember

Saint Kilian, the Irish missionary preacher and scholar came to the Lower Franconian region during the Hiberno-Scottish mission in the seventh century and is today venerated by Christians as the apostle of the Franks. Together with his companions Klonat and Totnan, the missionary Kilian was murdered in Würzburg. Today Saint Kilian is the patron saint of the city of Würzburg and of Franconia.


Ernie Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of The Gateway to Distilleries at

and publishes articles in the German whisky magazine The Highland Herold and the trade magazine Kleinbrennerei

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