It’s almost a year since we last took a look at Glengyle and its Kilkerran single malt – there’s a simple reason for this – there has not been any new official bottlings (outside of festival editions) since the release of the 8 year old Cask Strength edition in 2017. Following on from yesterday’s Kilchoman Sanaig review, we thought we’d stick to the theme of mineralistic whiskies and dig into our liquid archive for a look at an older (relatively) Kilkerran bottling. What we found in the Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Wood is a whisky so crystalline that it almost feels like it was excavated from a mine.
Glenglyle’s Kilkerran ‘Work in Progress’ (WIP) series was produced as a showcase of the distillery’s evolving spirit. Founded in 2004, the distillery’s first bottling (the original Work in Progress) was released in 2009 as a 5 years old whisky. Each subsequent year brought a new edition of Work in Progress until 2015 when the last edition (WIP 7) was bottled at 11 years of age. Though each bottling in the series was ‘limited’, production numbers were quite large allowing for a relatively broad swathe of enthusiast the opportunity to sample the developing quality of the Glengyle spirit before the first official release. Seven years after the first Work in Progress release, this arrived in 2016 the form of Kilkerran 12 year old – the distillery’s first core product.
The seventh (and final) release of the work in Progress series took a slightly different tact to previous editions. The first four releases had all been single (ex-bourbon) bottlings. Editions five, six and seven were a double act – two bottles – one in ex-bourbon and one from sherry. WIP 7’s ex-bourbon release upped the ABV from the usual 46% of the series to a cask strength of 54.1%. It was the smallest release of the entire series with only 6,000 bottles produced. As such, it’s long sold out and will be only really be found at auction nowadays, where you can expect to pay somewhere between £70-£90 based on recent sale prices.
Nose: Incredibly mineral – like a daytrip to a quarry - packed full of limestone, granite, slate and quartz. Whilst these aromas are extremely dominant, there are still some supporting notes to be experienced – oaty breakfast cereals/porridge, lemon (the kind you’ll find in a Chinese lemon chicken dish) and pritt stick. The addition of water heightens the steeliness even further – rock pools, rain puddles and sandy beaches. But, it also allows the underlying maltiness a little more breathing space in the form of Weetabix and honey nut cereals. An exceedingly singular nose.
Taste: A broader palate to play with than the nose suggested – sharp and tart lemons, cooking apples and some farmyard flavours (sties and cheese). But, minerality is never far away – more limestone and granite – but now with some very light touches of smoke – coal dust and burnt soils (more subtle than in the official 12 year old release). The combination is a quite intriguing mix of sweetness and steely sharpness. Water amplifies this combination even further – more sweetness (honey and stone fruit), but also more bitterness (a sprinkle of white pepper).
Finish: Long with tangy citrus, slight earthiness and plenty of sharp rocks.
Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Wood is one of the most single-minded whiskies I’ve tried in a long time. There are plenty of mineralistic whiskies out there – but this one turns that dial up to 11. The result is an exceptionally crisp and clean spirit with no overwrought casking and no attempt to smooth over the sharpness that’s inherent in the Glengyle distillate. I find it both intriguing and rather admirable. Its idiosyncratic style won’t be for everyone, but I’d happily get stuck into future Glengyle releases that stay true to this particular profile.