So today’s whisky is really cool… it is the visitor center bottling from Glengyle Distillery, aka Kilkerran, in Campbeltown. The good folks at J. & A. Mitchell & Co, aka Springbank, Glengyle and Cadenhead, in Campbeltown, were keen to take part in this year’s KWM Whisky Advent Calendar, and this is what they came up with. We didn’t get full-sized bottles, you have to go to the distillery for those, but we do have a surplus of 50mls, and we couldn’t be more pleased. The whisky is only available at the distillery, and KWM!
Glengyle is an interesting distillery. It was founded in 1872 by William Mitchell during a major boom in distilling in Scotland. Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery was opened in Campbeltown by William Mitchell, one of Archibald Mitchell, the founder of Springbank Distillery’s sons. William and his brother John ran the Springbank Distillery in partnership. The family had a farming background, which was quite common at the time, with many distilleries starting out as farms converting some of their surplus production to whisky. The spent grains from making beer and or whisky were then and still are a popular animal feed. William’s other brothers and sister ran another Campbeltown Distillery, Rieclachan.
When William and his brother John had a falling out, allegedly over sheep, William left Springbank and opened Glengyle. Campbeltown was then as it is now a small town, and less than 100 meters separated the two distilleries. The last decades of the 20th century were a boom time for Scotch whisky, and there was nowhere in Scotland where this was felt more strongly than Campbeltown. At the end of the 18th Century, there were no fewer than 31 illicit stills operating in the area. When Alfred Barnard, the great Victorian whisky writer came calling in 1885 the town had 21 operating distilleries. At the height of the boom, Campbeltown was said to have more than 30 distilleries, a number only eclipsed by the volume of churches. This was not because the people of Campbeltown were especially prosperous, but rather a means of keeping the temperance movement at bay.
Boom turned to bust in the first years of the 20th Century. Many of Campbeltown’s distilleries closed. Glengyle was sold to West Highland Distillers in 1919, and then again in 1924 for just £300. The distillery closed altogether in 1925, and it stocks put up for auction on April 8th the same year. The buildings remained rather miraculously intact for the following 79 years. During this time the building was used as a shooting range, a depot and offices for an agricultural firm and eventually a cooperative. Several attempts were made to revive the distillery both before and after World War 2, but none of them came to fruition. That was until 2000 when Hedley Wright, chairman of J&A Mitchell and Co Ltd (Springbank), decided to reopen Glengyle to settle a score with the infamous thuggish and stuck-up trade body known as the Scotch Whisky Association.
At the end of the 20th Century, Campbeltown had just two remaining distilleries, Springbank and Glen Scotia. Hedley Wright was incensed that the Scotch Whisky Association, an industry lobby group, was not in favour of granting Campbeltown a regional designation. The SWA pointed out that two distilleries were not in their opinion enough to warrant the grant of regional status. Hedley noted that the Lowlands only had three distilleries, and asked would the SWA acknowledge Campbeltown as a rightful region if they too had three operating distilleries. They acknowledged they would, and assumed the issue was dead. It was not. To the best of my knowledge, Glengyle/Kilkerran is the only distillery built or reopened in Scotland out of spite!
It took a lot of work and many coats of industrial paint to bring the buildings up to snuff. For the last couple of decades, the building had lain dormant. It had become a refuge for pigeons, and also their droppings. The first distillation took place in March of 2014, and its first limited whisky, a 3-year-old, was bottled in 2007. This was followed in 2009 by the first of many “Work in Progress” releases. The distillery now has annual releases of 8 and 12-year old whiskies, but the quantities are small. Like its sister distillery Springbank, Glengyle is not run anywhere near its capacity.
There is also the matter of the whisky’s name, Kilkerran. Glengyle’s single malt is not named after the distillery as there is a low end Blended Scotch whisky that trades under the name Glengyle. Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd. was not able to come to a purchase agreement for the name with the Blends producer and opted instead to name their whisky after Campbeltown’s original name. From the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’, essentially the Loch of St. Kerran’s Church, is derived the anglicized Kilkerran.
Image courtesy of @frombarreltobottle
Kilkerran 10 Year Visitor Center First Fill Bourbon Barrel 2008-2018 – 46% – Matured in First Fill Ex-Bourbon –
Andrew’s Tasting Note
Nose: vanilla custard and tapioca pudding; dried lemon and honeydew melons; white chocolate marzipan and fresh cut flowers; gentle malt with a hint of clean smoke and sea breeze.
Palate: creamy, malty and floral; building clean peat smoke and more sea breeze; more marzipan and building tarry smoke; a touch of lemon and melons.
Finish: creamy, malty and floral; the finish is medium in length, oily and coating.
Comment: there is a lot more smoke here than I expected, but that is far from disappointing; a love the batch variation found in both Springbank and Kilkerran whiskies; this one is not mind-blowingly complex, but it is very drinkable!” – $13 (50ml mini)
Playing catch-up on our 2018 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar?