I kinda get the impression that Hedley Wright wasn’t born with enough middle fingers. If you don’t know the gent I’m speaking of, rest assured that I mean this with the utmost respect for this nonagenarian. Confession: I absolutely adore the Hedley ethos.
Some of you are probably aware that I have an almost unconditional love for Campbeltown and Campbeltown whiskies. I love the place, the people, the history and the distilleries. I love the bars and the late-night strolls. Most importantly, I love all the memories I’ve made there. The clock seems to move at a different pace on this wee peninsula.
But I suppose we should be talking about the whisky we’re reviewing, aye?
Kilkerran, as many of you will know, is not a distillery; it is the brand name for the single malt produced at the Glengyle distillery.
So, here’s the tale as I’ve heard it told, for those that may not have listened to me sentimentalize this one in person: Back in the early 2000s, Campbeltown was in danger of losing its regional status in the eyes of the Scotch Whisky Association. The ‘wee toon’ ’round the harbour – once the world’s most famous and in-demand whisky-producing sector – had reached a point where only two distilleries remained in production. A mighty fall for a town (and region) that once boasted more than thirty producers.
Enter one Hedley G. Wright, a generational descendent of the Mitchell family (whose name you’ll still see adorning Springbank bottlings to this day), and his mad machinations to protect the regional status of Campbeltown. Hedley made the argument that the Lowlands only had three operational distilleries and were still a recognized region, ergo, if Campbeltown had the same number then they should reap the same benefits. The SWA agreed. So, Hedley bought the neighbouring corpse-distillery of Glengyle, cleaned out tons of birdshit (and who knows what all else), and tricked out the building with equipment purchased from the now-defunct Ben Wyvis distillery. All equipment, piping and possibly even the kitchen sink was procured for a rather paltry £300,000. And in 2004, the spirit began to flow.
Twelve years later we’ve reached the culmination of a lot of ‘work in progress’ releases, and if I’m being honest…this is one of the most impressive age-stated renaissance expressions I’ve ever encountered (Laddie 10 being another). It’s everything I wanted, and a whole lot more.
Batches vary, I understand, but this one was apparently 70% ex-bourbon, 30% ex-sherry. Bottled at 46% abv. Bottle code: 18/337. Bottled: 03/08/2018.
Nose: Awww, yeah. A heapin’ helpin’ of the Campbeltown funk. Love it. Smells of the farmyard. Oat cakes. A touch of pool water (chlorine?). A balanced salinity. I keep catching a fleeting whiff of blueberry. Lemon. Burlap, or hessian. Peanuts in the shell. A bit minerally, maybe slate or clay.
Palate: Love this distinctive peatiness. A nice clean citrus, both lemon and orange. Licorice Babies. Like chewing on a stalk of straw. Those oat cakes are back again. Overbaked – not quite burnt – pastry.
Finish: A nice lingering farmy funk. Salty crackers. A nice peaty fade.
Thoughts: Almost indistinguishable from Springbank. And that, of course, makes perfect sense.