You see it in every industry – demons and darlings – those that can do no right and those that can seemingly do no wrong. In Scotch terms you don’t have to look far for examples of either – and anything produced by J&A Mitchell (which includes Springbank and Glengyle) most firmly falls into the latter category. There’s good reasons why their expressions are well-regarded and sought after – but their fans are some of the most ardent, and it seems some of the most zealous. Case in point, Phil (@Causewaywhiskey) taking flack for having the audacity to dislike one of their expressions in a blind tasting for Malt earlier this week.
Whilst to my mind, J&A Mitchell (and particularly Springbank) have earned a reputation for being one of Scotland’s most consistent producers, if we all liked the same things the world would be a simpler and ergo much more boring place. I’m long enough in the tooth to remember when Campbeltown whiskies were something of a hidden gem – under the radar to all but those in the know. The cat has been firmly out of the bag for a number of years now – and folks will now find it a struggle to obtain anything even smelling like a limited release from the region’s three distilleries. And, at the same time, they’ll also likely find that honest reviews and proper critique of Springbank’s output is in sadly short order.
Dare to negatively appraise the darlings of Campbeltown and you’re going to take some stick for it. Quite unnecessarily.
I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised - unidentifiable keyboard warriors are a function of the Internet. But, at the same time I do think that we should call out and rail against this type of behaviour. It’s zealotry of the highest order. If everything received a glowing review the whisky fabric would be a poorer place – with no gradation, nor any shades of grey all that would be left is the cult of the distillery itself. And, seemingly an online community all in total agreement with each other. It’s as unrealistic as it is as undesirable.
That brings us onto today’s main topic – Glenglye and the new Kilkerran Heavily Peated edition.
In researching for this article, I found a near sea of outlandishly highly rated reviews. Rave praise. Platitudes upon platitudes. Little assessment and almost zero critical thinking. Now I’m not anyone to directly call out either a particularly high score or a particularly low score (see above) - people like what they like. But, think about it – if the commendation levels are so high at the start of something, they give level little room for manoeuvre when future bottles in a series are released. It makes me wonder whether the same whisky had been released by a different distillery whether the acclaim would have been quite so fervent. Darlings be darlings.
If Glengyle’s Peat in Progress series follows the same route as the distillery’s Work in Progress bottlings we can expect a release (or maybe two showing off differing cask comparisons) each year until the heavily peated edition reaches 12 years of age. The first bottling in the series is composed of 55% ex-bourbon with 45% ex-sherry in support and derived from barley peated to a formidable 84ppm.
It’s issued as an NAS though the word on the street is that the liquid is roughly 3 years of age. Whilst many of the larger retailers sold out of this (an in pretty quick order) you’ll still find some bottles if you go searching. The best price I can find currently is via Lea & Sandeman wine merchants at £39.99 this is only a few pounds higher the initial release a few months back – and to my mind represents rather good value for a whisky bottled at 59.3% ABV.
Nose: Fresh green apples and scrumpy cider are joined by golden malts and pressed oats whilst a layer of marshmallows and confectioner’s sugar adds sweetness. Peat runs throughout – a stimulating and effective combination of smoked greenhouse vines and machine oils an greases. Vegetation meets industry. Running throughout, are some rather youthful metallic aromas – piping and aluminium sheeting. Reduction emphasises the vegetal notes further – tree sap, resin, pine needles and leaf mulch alongside mud and clay. It also serves to focus the smoke’s medicinal character – iodine and swarfege.
Taste: The arrival is as punchy as you’d expect from the high ABV. It delivers ashy, tarry smoke on a bed of pebbles, gravel and salinity. Sweetness pokes through with toffee apples, whilst tartness tempers from lemon, grapefruits and gooseberries. The smoke is quite pervasive – kippers and hearth embers. The addition of water greatly softens the attack and makes for a more approachable whisky all-round – a similar profile, but with oils, axle grease, copper and wet soils. Hmm, gentler, but now more overtly younger in character.
Finish: Long with ashy embers, salinity and aluminium.
The first entry in Kilkerran’s Peat in Progress series ably demonstrates the proposition the distillery are making with their higher PPM spirit – an unflinching, intense and bruising whisky. But, at this age, it’s expectedly raw in places – sharp, coppery and lacking the development which will surely follow in future editions. The penetrating smoke hides many of the sins of age but, nevertheless the end result is still certainly enjoyable and more refined than many whiskies in a similar age category.
As to the price, this is certainly worth highlighting – a shy under £40 is exceedingly good value for this high strength offering. Similarly to Kilkerran’s Work in Progress, I’m following their Peat in Progress just as eagerly. But, at the same time, let’s be quite clear – this isn’t the finished article by a long stretch – there’s more progression to be had here.