Kilkerran is a single malt whisky that is made at the Glengyle distillery. Glengyle is located in the town of Campbeltown, on the west Highland coast of Scotland. The distillery was originally founded in 1872 by William Mitchell, who was a co-owner with his brother John at the nearby Springbank distillery. He decided to set up on his own but Glengyle history was relatively short and it closed down due to financial difficulties in 1925. It was not to reopen until 2000, when Hedley Smith, the chairman of J&A Mitchell and Co. Ltd - the owners of Springbank, founded the Mitchell's Glengyle Ltd. with the aim of completely refurbishing the derelict buildings and restarting whisky production. The first spirit was distilled in April 2004.
This Kilkerran 'Work in Progress' is the first official single malt whisky released by Glengyle. The decision was taken not to name the whisky as Glengyle for two reasons - the first was so as to avoid confusion with a brand of vatted Highland malts that already used the name and the second was that the owners wanted a name to reflect something in the local history. They settled on Kilkerran which is derived from the Gaelic 'Caenn Loch Cille Chiarain' (which translates as 'head of the loch of Saint Kerran'). This was a site that Saint Kerran had travelled to in the Middle Ages and set up a religious group, which is now where the town of Campbeltown is built.
The 'Work in Progress' is five years of age and is limited to 12,000 bottles. The colour of this whisky is light and straw-like, with a nose that is highly aromatic and full of youthful vibrancy. There is an interesting mixture of sweet cereal grains, fresh green fruit (think of pears and apples), something powerful and herbal (imagine dried grasses) and just a whiff of some peppery peat smoke. This is a very promising start and on the palate it does not disappoint. It feels creamy in the mouth and the cereal, green fruit and grassy elements from the nose are joined by a sugary sweetness (imagine icing sugar), vanilla and some zesty citrus (think of lemon and orange especially). The finish is long with a hint of earthy smokiness and some woody oak coming through, before it turns slightly harsh and spirity right at the end.
Kilkerran is a very pleasant and highly characteristic whisky. Considering its age, it offers a very interesting alternative to more regular brands and at a decent price (£30-35 at specialist whisky retailers only). It is robust, youthful and vibrant which may not be to everyone's taste, but is showing great potential. It will be interesting to see how this whisky matures over the coming years and they plan to release increased ages of Kilkerran as and when the stocks age increases. This is an excellent foundation upon which to build and is definitely a name to watch out for in the future.