Kilkerran 8 – Bourbon vs Sherry

This Easter I had a very special treat set out for me, as right before the weekend a package from my friend and fellow whisky enthusiast Herbert Roenhorst arrived at my doorstep. He managed to purchase several of the latest releases from the Campbeltown region and thanks to him I managed to get my hands on a few drops from each bottle. Eager to start exploring them I decided to end my easter weekend with the (unidentical) twins from the Glengyle distillery: Kilkerran 8 Bourbon Cask & Kilkerran 8 Sherry Cask.

These Cask Strength offerings from the Campbeltown distillery are always very highly regarded and make for a great opportunity to compare the differences between Sherry and Bourbon Cask maturation side by side. Respectively these bottlings of the 8-year-old Kilkerran are Batch 8 (Bourbon) and Batch 9 (Sherry). I’m eager to find out which maturation will come out on top for me!

Tasting Notes: Kilkerran 8 – Bourbon Cask
Stats:

ABV: 55,8% (111,6 proof)

Age: 8 years old

Distillery: Glengyle

Owned by: Mitchel & Co. Ltd.

Category: Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

The nose of this Bourbon Cask finished Kilkerran immediately screams of green apples to me. Green apples and a thick layer of caramel fudge, reminiscent of a caramel candied apple. Vanilla and fresh cut grass intermingle nicely on the background, which becomes apparent after you let your nose adjust a little to that initial blast of candied apple sweetness. There’s a little blossom in here as well and all-together it paints an image of spring in my mind. Fitting this Easter weekend like a glove. Water brings forth a lemon custard note that makes my mouth water.

Palate:

The palate is a beautiful continuation of the nose. With one added element, that immediately becomes apparent. There’s a lovely spicy pepper in this, slightly reminiscent of a red jalapeño. A layer of honey is also added on the palate, which gives the dram a thick and syrupy mouthfeel. Other than those new flavours the candied apple, vanilla and fresh cut grass al make a reappearance. It does take a few sips before you can look past that pepper note though, as that is really the flavour that takes centre stage here. Water tames the jalapeño a little bit and where it brought lemon custard on the nose, it turns to lemon grass on the palate.

Finish:

The finish lingers nicely for a medium length of time. And while the pepper wears of slowly, the notes of vanilla and green apple begin to shine once more. It’s in the finish where I first pick up on a little tannin influence as well, giving of a pleasant tingle of bitterness to balance out the sweeter side of this dram.  A few drops of water proved to lengthen the finish of this dram considerably, but at the same time it took most of the pepper away without adding many new flavours. Making the dram less complex than when I enjoyed it neat.

Verdict:

I thoroughly enjoyed this dram, as it took me on a trip of all it has to offer in a beautiful orchestral way. From the Nose to the Palate the dram showed me a gorgeous crescendo of flavours and the finish proved to end in a decrescendo deserving of a standing ovation. It’s a very pleasant and easy sipper – despite its high ABV – and the flavours themselves aren’t all that new, weird or exciting. But when all the elements are as well put together as in this dram, it’s an absolute joy to behold. I loved this dram the most when I enjoyed it neat, but even with a few drops of water it is still a thing of beauty. This is a dram to remember.

Rating:

92/100

Tasting Notes: Kilkerran 8 – Sherry Cask
Stats:

ABV: 57,5% (115 proof)

Age: 8 years old

Distillery: Glengyle

Owned by: Mitchel & Co. Ltd.

Category: Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

The influence of what kind of cask you choose to mature your whisky in, immediately becomes apparent as you nose this Kilkerran 8 Sherry Cask right after the Bourbon variant. The contrast is immense. I’m finding lots of dried fruit, including plums, dates and dried apple. There’s also a more cereal note in here than I found in the Bourbon cask variant, which – combined with the dried fruit – makes this dram reminiscent of sticking your nose in a bowl of Quaker’s Breakfast Cereal in the early morning. A dish I quite like myself, as I enjoy it every morning next to a steaming hot cup of coffee. Water brings forth a bit of motor oil, like stepping into a car repair shop. And as strange as that may sound, I quite like that addition to this dram.

Palate:

On the palate I’m immediately finding a striking similarity between this and its bourbon matured twin. They both have the same intensity of pepper in them. This Sherry Cask variant reminds me more of a hot red pepper than a jalapeño though. There’s a little less coherency than with the Bourbon Cask between Nose and Palate. I am finding some of the dried fruits again (especially plums) but the dram becomes much more focused on notes of maple syrup and treacle and there’s a much more pronounced influence of the oak. It’s a dark and bitter layer that gives this dram a very heavy mouthfeel, one I almost feel like I can chew. There’s some dark chocolate in here as well and I’m even picking up on some nutty qualities, reminding me of dark chocolate covered almonds.

Just a few drops of water absolutely transform this dram for the better. The pepper gets turned up a notch, the chocolate and nut influences become more bountiful, and a coffee note gets added.

Finish:

The pepper doesn’t really seem to continue into the finish, instead it’s the dark chocolate that I’m finding most of all. The dried fruits do make a strong comeback though, with chocolate covered raisins being one of the things I love the most in what I’m finding. The oaky bitterness that I was expecting to follow through from the palate also isn’t quite there. Now, I will admit that I absolutely love chocolate covered raisins, which might make me a bit biased as to why I love this finish. To remain as unpartial as possible though, I will add that this lacks a lot of complexity compared to the previous dram. Water lengthens the finish, and that lovely coffee note carries through as well. Aside from that I’m getting a chocolate brownie note now and I can safely conclude that adding water added some much needed complexity to the dram.

Verdict:

This is a very difficult whisky for me to give a good verdict on. On the one hand, I found it rather unspectacular when I enjoyed it neat. On the other hand, adding water added a complexity to the dram that made it thoroughly enjoyable. The flavours that this dram holds are also perfectly up my alley, and between the two drams I enjoyed today I think I’d more likely pick up this Sherry Cask. But it really does need the water. And even then, the Bourbon Cask is by far the more beautiful whisky. It is just so well balanced and well put together.

As much as this dram is my cup of tea, I cannot rate it higher than the Bourbon Cask. And that once again shows me how important personal taste is when enjoying a whisky, so don’t ever be put off by anyone’s reviews. Not mine or anyone else’s. Always try them for yourself, as the lower rated whisky might be much more up your alley. Which is even the case here, where I end up giving my favourite of the two a lower rating than the other.

Rating:

89/100

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Stan
Stan
1 year ago

Very nice to read. Cannot wait to try the samples myself, and explore if the water is really needed 😀

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