There is no Kilkerran distillery, Kilkerran is actually distilled in the recently revived Glengyle Distillery. Unfortunately it was not possible use the Glengyle brand name as this had been previously sold to Bloch Bros, owners of Glen Scotia. Instead the Kilkerran name was selected being derived from the Gaelic Cille Chiarain, the original name of Campbeltown.
Glengyle (Kilkerran) Distillery
Mitchell’s Glengyle distillery is home to the Kilkerran single malt. William Mitchell founded the original Glengyle distillery in 1872 which would remain in the family until 1919. It was sold to the West Highland Malt Distillers conglomerate but fell on hard times and closed in 1925 the victim of the prohibition downturn.
The distillery lay silent for three-quarters of a century, before being purchased and revived by J&A Mitchell. The Mitchell dynasty, owner of the Springbank distillery and the WM. Cadenhead’s, one of the oldest and largest independent whisky bottlers in Scotland acquired the distillery in 2000. Four years later Glengyle was reopened and its first single malt, Kilkerran, was released in 2009. Glengyle has the somewhat dubious honour of being the first distillery to open in Campbeltown in 125 years.
The Glengyle Distillery is the sister distillery of the Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown, one of Scotland’s five whiskey regions. This region is located on the Kintyre peninsula where there were once over 30 malt whisky distilleries. Today Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia are all that remain.
Kilkerran today is a far cry from the more heavily peated style of the original Glengyle distillery. Regardless it is in many ways a classic Campbeltown, complex maritime notes, light salt and delicate peat that tends towards more earthy aromas.
The Kilkerran 8 years Cask Strength
The Kilkerran 8 has a surprisingly mature nose for its age, with deceptively little alcohol considering its cask strenth. Citrus and salted almonds abound along with some green malt, yeast dough, lemongrass. All told it’s like Clynelish on stereoids. The Kilkerran 8 is a limited annually released special edition.
The lightly peated 12-year-old is matured 70% in ex-Bourbon casks and 30% in ex-Sherry casks. It’s a confrontastional dram with clear oak notes right from the start. Burnt almonds, vanilla sauce with hot cherries, raisins and earthy peat notes add more and ensure a varied bouquet. The palate offers fruits, freshly grated lemon peel, orange blossom, vanilla biscuits, salty caramel and licorice. The palate gives way to a long-lasting oiliness with fresh, salty sea notes.
These single malts are completely natural in both taste and appearance. Glengyle distillery does not use chill filtration, which means that all aromatic oils can still be found in the spirit. Likewise the whisky owes its straw yellow color to the oak barrels in which it was stored for 12 years, 30% of the barrels are former sherry casks. They are responsible for the fruity aromas that the spirit conjures in the nose and mouth. The slightly peated malt (12-15 ppm) ensures an unobtrusive smokiness and is more towards dark earth notes.
How is Glengyle / Kilkerran whisky produced?So far, Glengyle has been operated “on the side” by the employees of the Springbank Distillery. Therefore, the distillery does not nearly reach its capacity of around 750,000 liters of alcohol production per year. Annual production is currently estimated at 60,000 liters. Current releases are produced in a small, limited edition and distilled twice, is slightly smoky and is now available in over 25 countries worldwide.
The Glengyle Distillery in Campbeltown was founded by William Mitchell after a fight with his brother John atthe Springbank distillery, in 1872 and completed in 1873. Glengyle was to stay in the families ownership until it had to be sold in 1919 as a result of the post-World War I recession. The new owner West Highland Malt Distilleries Ltd was established in 1919 to run (Glen) Scotia, Glen Nevis, Glengyle, Kinloch, Dalintober and Ardlussa distilleries hoping to stave off closure. Unfortuantely the Prohibition-induced crisis in Campbeltown saw the group’s bankruptcy in 1924 and Glengyle had to close in 1925. On the 8th of April 1925 the surviving 22,500 gallon spirit stock was sold at auction. The premises were bought by Robert Armour & Sons and during the 1920s the buildings were rented to the Campbeltown Miniature Rifle Club.
An attempt was made by Maurice Bloch and his brother, now owners of Glen Scotia, to reopen the distillery but this was abandoned when World War II broke out. The distillery would sit silent, for 75 years in total.
In 1887 when Alfred Barnard visited Campbeltown and Glengyle he described the region as the ‘Whisky City’ and the ‘Whisky Metropolis’. Unfortunately the city that once held more than 30 distilleries had falled to only 2, and by the turn of the millennium it looked set to have it’s status as a whisky region (or more acurately a protected locality) stripped by the Scotch Whisky Association.
Springbank‘s David Allen felt “rightly aggrieved at the possibility of Campbeltown being wiped of the whisky map” and formulated a plan to fight this off. Hedley G. Wright, current Chairman of Springbank distillery as well as the great-great-grandson of the founder of Springbank, and thus great-great-nephew of Glengyle founder stepped up. By reviving the former Glengyle Distillery they were able to make the case that the Lowland region only had three operational distilleries; Auchentoshan, Bladnoch and Glenkinchie. Wright argued that if Campbeltown added a third distillery “we deserved the same recognition”.
No trace of the original equipment existed, so in reality the distillery was a new-build sharing only walls with the original. Almost every part of the plant is brand new, though a Boby mill was sourced from Craigellachie and the stills were rescued from the now lost Ben Wyvis distillery, which had only been in use for a few years before it closed in 1976. After some preparation, the Glengyle distillery was inaugurated in March 2004 by Winifred Ewing and Hedley Wright. Glengyle has been producing whiskey again since 2004 - the first new distillery in Campbeltown in 125 years.
The whiskey from the Glengyle distillery could not bear the name of the distillery, still owned and issued as a blended (formerly Vatted) malt by Glen Scotia owners. Accordingly, an alternative name was sought. The choice fell on Kilkerran, a name steeped in history: Kilkerran is derived from Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain, the Gaelic name of the first settlement on the Kintyre peninsula.
Glengyle is maturing a series of exciting experiments in its warehouses, in addition to various barrel maturations, heavily peated whiskey, triple and even quadruple distilled whiskies are waiting to be released.
The annual Work-in-Progress releases varied between ex-Bourbon or ex-Sherry maturation and were released in quantities of between 9 and 18,000 bottles. New WiPs followed each year, which were then available for the first time as sherry and bourbon wood bottlings from 2013 (WiP 5).
|Name||Pronounced||AKA||Region||Country of Origin|
|Status||Active||Whisky Type||Website||Tours Available|
|Active||1872 - Present||Malt||Glengyle||Tour Link|
|Manager||Distiller||Blender||Owned by||Parent Group|
|Gavin Mclachlan||Hedley Wright|
1873: Founded by William Mitchell & Co.
1919: Acquired from William Mitchell & Co. by West Highland Malt Distilleries Ltd.
1924: West Highland Malt Distilleries Ltd. are declared bankrupt
1925: Glengyle distillery closed and the surviving 22,500 gallon spirit stock in the Glengyle and Dalaruan warehouses was auctioned
1941: The Glengyle site was bought by the Bloch Brothers who also owned Glen Scotia Distillery. They planned to rebuild and extend Glengyle (and even discussed building a grain distillery on the site) but WWII intervented. The site was eventually sold to the Kintyre Farmers
1957: Campbell Henderson applied for planning permission to undertake a £250,000 modernisation of Glengyle
2000: The remaining distillery buildings were bought by J.&A. Mitchell
2004: Distilling started up again
2009: The first commercial bottling of Kilkerran is released
2016: Kilkerran 12 is released
2017: Kilkerran 8 Cask Strength is released
2019: Kilkerran Heavily Peated is released