I have a report coming on the three days of the Campbeltown festival, but rather than make you wade through that in order to read a review of the Kilkerran 12 (or have to read long tasting notes if you wanted to festival report, however brief and ill-remembered) I've split them out.
So some of these are bottles I tried at the festival and brought home to open and write relaxed notes for and some are ones I haven't tried yet. And there's quite a lot of it.
First, a couple of bottles of one-off hooch from the cage in Cadenheads, Campbeltown.
Hazelburn 8 years old, Refill sherry hogshead, 60.2% A⊕
Nose - Fresh, zesty and way, way more mature than 8. Grapefruit hand soap, sandalwood, yoghurt covered raisins and just a lovely light, balanced and elegant cask, dusty and old school. This is the kind of nose I associate with getting a sample of a long-gone single cask and not being able to get more of it.
Body - White chocolate, raisins, a touch of nut and a lot of fire. Very thick and absolutely delicious. Isn't this supposed to be a light, floral dram? Even sweet, more chocolate with water. Pine planks and honey but a touch gentler.
Finish - Big, very sweet, oily but balanced by oak and smoke. Grapefruit juice with water.
A fantastic whisky. Don’t you hate it when you buy and split a bottle of something unique and then wish you had more than 10cl?
Springbank 10 years old, Refill sherry butt, 59.5% A⊕
Nose - Again, really, really classy. More toffee, deeper sweetness and a touch of engine oil and charred wood (as you'd expect). Orange zest (slightly funk) and green apple (slightly artificial), fresh earth and cut grass. Fascinating.
Body - Big, classical Springbank, but with rosemary and chewed oak planks. Very clear grapefruit juice. Water brings fresh orange juice and tobacco.
Finish - Long and thick, lots of oil and some wood smoke (including the numbing tar in long smoked meats). White wine tannins with water. Quite bitter near the end, then just hot.
If this was an IB I'd buy a few - it's very, very good.
Longrow 21 years old, Campbeltown Festival 2016 bottling, 46% A⊕+
This Longrow 21 was so much money, it deserves an early billing. When you try 21 year old Springbank, you need to sit in a dark room with it. The stuff peaks at 15 or so in terms of impact, and mellows and becomes more elegant after that, and is always lost in a busy environment like a tasting or festival.
Nose - More citrus (lemon icing, lemon waxes), vanilla sponge, gentle wood and retronasal peat only. There's a slight, tangy funk deep in here, like powdered orange drink (what's it called? TANG) but still in powdered format. Tying this all together is a background note of old wood and leather. It's gently fruity, with soft cask notes, and very elegant.
Body - Very old in the initial delivery, like well-aged Glenfiddich. Orange wax, honeycomb and slightly formic. And then chocolate biscuits.
Finish - Very long, sweet and floral, then toffee and whipped cream (like a peppermint crisp without the mint). At the very end, in amongst the citrus bitterness, and building with repeated sips, a touch of peat.
Just the most elegant, orangey but whispering dram. The rest of my 10cl share of this will be savoured, and not as an evening ender.
Kilkerran 12 years old, vatting sample, 50% A⊕
A sample of this came home with me for proper notes and will be repeated in the day 1 write-up. I don't want to fan the flames for when this finally is released (as I want some of it) but really, they are about to knock it out of the park with Kilkerran.
Nose - Winey cereal with sour waxes and boiled sweets. Pipe tobacco and blackcurrant. Slightlly dirty and quite complex. Really rich though, and perfectly peated. I believe they just re-run the Springbank formula at Glengyle so it's not surprise that this is classic Springbank. Sweeter and zestier with water.
Body - Fruity Springbank oils, lemon drops and white wine tannins. Fruity and very confident with pipe tobacco (smoked this time) and very heavily peated too. Spicier with water, with lemon and black pepper
Finish - Long, limoncello. Young cereal. Very well balanced and well integrated. Seriously delicious too.
Kilkerran 9 years old, Open Day 2015, rum cask, 58.3% A⊕+
They still had half bottles of this for sale in Cadenheads this year, so I was very pleased to be able to get a splitter and try it.
Nose - Big, deep, spicy and rich (like shortbread), but with young, shaved wood notes. But the initial impression is a massive bass note of spice, wine and oak. I would have called this for a refill red wine cask, and as usual with Kilkerran way older than 9. There's also complex notes of modelling clay and petrol. Loads more orange zest with water. Absolutely excellent.
Body - White chocolate spread, a touch of truffle, white toast. Big, petrolic orange notes. Incredibly thick.
Finish - Finally here's the rum, with coffee, oak, posh white chocolate and loads of Marlboro lights. And at the end, pure dunnage. Perfect.
Springbank 9 years old, Campbeltown Festival 2016 bottling, Refill Marsala hogshead, 58.7% A⊕
September 2006 to 19th May 2016, 276 bottles.
Nose - Sharp granite to balance the rich toffee and wine. Pecans in caramel, some acrylic paint, and sweet like braised carrots and sherry vinegar. There's a freshness, like hotel soap against the men's cologne and general clarty richness. And a deep hint of filth.
Body - Soft, warm and winey. Freshly laundered towels and pecan pie. So soft and rich, virtually topless, no heat from the alcohol. With water, roasted apples and walnuts.
Finish - Medium and zesty again. Blood oranges this time. Lots of pastry at the end. Longer with water, a lot more activity from the wine cask too. Eventually, black pepper and dunnage.
Lovely stuff this - doesn't quite stand up to the Kilkerran Open Day 2015 but a cracking dram.
Kilkerran 8 years old, Open Day 2016, first fill sherry cask, 56.4% A+
Nose - Classic young sherry cask meets Kilkerran. Fruit and nut bar, baked apples, Gorgo bars (a green, lime flavoured Wham bar from my youth). But mostly… coffee and cask. Fruitier and more on message with water.
Body - Pure chocolate bar… perhaps… no definitely a load of licked joss stick too. Kilkerran again with water, very fruity with light waxes and a touch of clay.
Finish - Very long, very dusty, lots of lime and chocolate. Water opens it up significantly at the end, toffee apples and hot asphalt.
A clumsy cask for the confident young Kilkerran spirit on this one, not up to the 2015 but I really like the joss sticks.
Springbank 19 years old, Cadenheads Warehouse Tasting, recharred sherry butt, 59.8% A⊕⊕
Nose - Big, ripe, important, classical. Absolutely beautiful. So… it's fresh, with apple juice, orange wax and lime cordial. But deep and old with rosemary, big old cask (like a 40 year old refill bourbon that's almost black) and an enticing, slightly alien back note of whiteboard markers and poster paints. And grapes. And then that kind of super-sherry you usually get from Douglas Laing XOP casks.
Body - Speechless. It's old Springbank. Deep rich tannins against orange cream, waxes galore. Way older than 19, and nowhere near over the hill, it's big, fruity and complex. At 60% it's incredible neckable, but with water it's perhaps even better… woodier perhaps? But spread out over your tongue like paper chromatography so it's slightly less overwhelming.
Finish - Very, very long. Chocolate orange, ice cream sandwiches made with phish food, deep sherry.
A phenomenal whisky. There's some left in that cask, I'm sure. I wonder where it'll end up?
Longrow Red 2016, SA Malbec cask A⊕
This is the new Longrow Red (August). Praise be!
Nose - Intense, ripe black fruit, permanent marker and plum and frangipane tart. It has an intensity and complexity that I've not seen in a Longrow red before, and just the barest whisper of peat. More oak (and older whisky) with water.
Body - Really rich, deep and dark. Black cherry and blackberry (seriously). Burnt newspaper. Just the most beautiful fruit waxes. Tobacco with water.
Finish - Long and intense with pre-mixed poster paints, licked joss stick again, and Vimto. A structural touch of coffee and a varnish oak beam.
This is still a marrying sample but I'm going to keep the remnants of it until August to side by side it with the release bottle. I'm sure it won't be this good…
Anyway this is fantastic, I'm sure this is what people are aiming for when they make Vimto turbocider.