What we now know as Campbeltown began life as a settlement on the Kintyre peninsula named ‘Kinlochkilkerran’. Translating as ‘the head of the loch by the church of Ciaran’, it was renamed ‘Campbell’s Town’ in 1667, after Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyle, was granted ownership of the land. Thanks to its position on Scotland’s Atlantic coast, the town grew to become a crucial hub for a variety of industries with fishing, shipbuilding and whisky production at the very heart of the community.
Campbeltown came to be known as the Victorian whisky capital of the world, with more than 30 distilleries in operation at one time or another. Today however, that vast industry is but a distant memory. All but three distilleries are lost to the mists of time. Only Springbank, Glen Scotia and Glengyle remain and the latter spent much of the last century in silence.
Glengyle was originally founded in 1872 by William Mitchell and operated successfully until 1925 when it was sold to the Bloch Bros blending company. It wasn’t long before the new owners were forced to mothball the site thanks to the wartime rationing of barley but when peace returned to the world, all remained quiet at Glengyle. Any plans to resume production had long since been forgotten and the distillery buildings were eventually stripped of their equipment and left to the ravages of time.
Three quarters of a century later, Campbeltown’s status as a proud whisky region in its own right was under threat, as some began to question why a single town of just two distilleries was considered a ‘region’. Hedley G Wright, owner of Springbank, wasn’t about to accept this without a fight however and pointed out that the lowlands had only three distilleries currently in operation at the time, with no threat of a loss of status hanging over them. By that reasoning, a third Campbeltown distillery would surely preserve the towns position as one of Scotland’s five official regions. Before long, Wright had purchased the shell of a building which once housed Glengyle and a set of second hand stills were acquired from the mothballed Ben Wyvis distillery in Invergordon. With the new setup installed, Glengyle was back in production by 2004.
Between 2009 and 2015 the company released annual ‘work in progress‘ expressions, which built towards the launch in 2016 of their first 12 year old permanent release. Since the rights to the Glengyle name were held elsewhere however, the malt has been released under the name of Kilkerran. Harking back to the very roots of the town itself.
That initial 12 year old malt was soon followed by an 8 year old ‘cask strength’ edition. Bottled at 55.7%, it is available in the UK for around £50 – £55.
Smell: On the nose there’s Wood Smoke, Biscuit and Honey, Caramel and Fudge, a touch of Banana and light Oak.
Taste: Sea Salt, Black Pepper and a touch of Brine mix with Lemon and Creamy Malt with a subtle undercurrent of Smoke.
Value for Money: £50 is quite reasonable for a cask strength offering such as this, and credit is due to the distillers for including an 8 year old age statement when it would have been so easy to make this a no age statement label.
Scores: 45 / 50. About the Scores…
With some exciting releases on the horizon, Glengyle distillery is one of the most intriguing prospects on the single malt market. Their 12 year old set a high standard and this cask strength 8 year old easily lives up to it. Indeed, the only issue with Kilkerran is the relatively limited amount currently being produced, making it almost impossible to get hold of in some quarters. With any luck however, the continued success of the brand will lead to an upscaling in production and an opportunity for even more of us to fall in love with this fine Campbeltown single malt.