Glengyle distillery was founded in 1872 by William Mitchell. Mitchell had previously been involved with Springbank Distillery but following a quarrel with his brother John, with whom he owned Springbank, he first joined his other brothers at Reichlachan distillery before venturing out on his own. In 1919 the distillery was sold to West Highland Malt Distillers Ltd as a result of the post-World War I economic downturn that was affecting all the distilleries in the Campbeltown Region. In 1924 the distillery changed hands again and by 1925 had ceased production with all remaining stock being sold off. After being used as a rifle range, an attempt to reopen the distillery by Maurice Bloch, who, with his brother, also owned the Glen Scotia distillery, failed due to Second World War as did a second attempt by Campbell Henderson Ltd. in the 1950s. In 2000, Hedley Wright, owner of Springbank distillery and related to founder William Mitchell, acquired the distillery with the express purpose of renovating and rebuilding it. Production at the new Glengyle distillery began in 2004 and the first limited release, a three-year old, appeared in 2007. The whisky from Glengyle distillery is not called Glengyle but Kilkerran, as the Glengyle name is owned by Loch Lomond Distillers who use it for their vatted malt. The name Kilkerran comes from the Scottish Gaelic: Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain ("head of the lake of Saint Kieran's cell"), the name of a settlement where Saint Kieran is believed to have had a religious cell and where modern Campbeltown stands today. Kilkerran ‘Work in Progress I’ was released in 2009 with a total outturn of 12,000 bottles.
The nose is intensely malty at first, then soft wood spice as well as notes of lemon zest and vanilla fudge follow. Later on distinct grassy notes emerge.
The palate is medium-bodied and creamy. There are vanilla and honey flavours, followed by soft peat smoke and a touch of leather.
The finish is long and warming. Vanilla notes make a reappearance, and lemon zest pops up again at the very end.
I rather liked this first release of the work-in-progress series – very promising and makes you wonder what the next releases will be like. As this took time to open up, I would recommend to let it breathe for a while first.
It's good to see reviews of ol' #1 still coming out--and it's interesting to wonder how long it takes for all of a particular release—here, 12,000 bottles worldwide in 2009—to get opened and drank. I bought the (probable) last #1 in my area around Christmas and it'll sit unopened in my stash until the standard 12 YO debuts next year, when I'll open it for comparison's sake. I had a bottle of it when it was new, and I don't have notes for it but I know I liked enough to buy this second one.
Have you had much of the ongoing WIP series beyond #1? What do you think about its progression? I see a lot of reviews—especially for WIPs ~3 and on—that say "come on, already, the progress is complete! It's done! It's great!" I had the first "bourbon wood" one released in 2013 (#5?) and liked it well enough, but it had less of an attractive edge like the #1 did, at least in my memory. I never tried them side by side.
By chance, I was poking around the Hard to Find Whisky shop's website and found that they—despite their name!—are fresh out of the WIP #1. I suppose it really is becoming rare now.