If you're a Costco member, you've undoubtedly been to the liquor section of your local club to see what they have. And, you've likely stumbled across its Kirkland store-brand whiskeys and wondered to yourself, Can this be any good? Especially at that price? I know that thought has crossed my mind whenever I've perused the aisle.
Lately, I've been on a Scotch kick. I go through these cycles. Sometimes it is Bourbon, sometimes Rye, sometimes Irish, and for whatever reason, I gravitate toward them. I lost my whiskey virginity to Scotch, so it holds a special place in my heart. On the flip side of the coin, I'm not a wealthy man, and Scotch is an expensive part of an already expensive whiskey hobby.
A few months ago, I saw rumblings of Kirkland Signature Islay Single Malt Scotch hit the interwebs. There was a lot of excitement, and, as with anything, many naysayers who said an Islay single malt for $39.99 will taste like garbage. The #DrinkCurious lifestyle told me that's hogwash. After just enjoying a $38.00 bottle of Ardbeg Wee Beastie, I know good Scotch doesn't require a loan.
One of the frustrating things about buying Kirkland whiskeys is you have no idea where it comes from because they are very tight-lipped about it. However, Islay only has nine working distilleries and since this is a single malt, we know that means it isn't a blend of several. That's the first piece of the puzzle.
Other information we know is that it comes from Alexander Murray Co., which is an independent bottler. Independent bottling is pretty easy to explain. Distilleries have thousands of casks doing nothing but aging to perfection. An independent bottler selects casks they find special and bottles them on its own. There exist some superstar independent bottlers, and there are those who are mediocre at best.
This Kirkland whisky carries no age statement and is bottled at 100°. I picked up my bottle for $39.99. I'm sure different distribution territories have different prices. But the key here is this is very affordable. And, that ponies up the second and third pieces of the puzzle.
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch was golden in color. The bottle suggests nothing regarding added caramel coloring or chill filtering. But, at 100° would negate the need for chill filtering. The rim was wide and yielded fat, fast legs that crashed back into the pool.
Nose: Peat was expected and it did not disappoint. That's the first note I picked up from the moment I poured my first glass. Brine, citrus, barbeque smoke, and vanilla each held their places. When I breathed the aroma into my mouth, I tasted lemon curd rolling across my tongue.
Palate: There was no mistaking the mouthfeel for anything but being full-bodied and viscous. On the front of my palate, I found smoked vanilla and pear. As it moved to the middle, flavors of salted caramel, ginger, and citrus were evident. The back offered marmalade, tobacco leaf, clove, and (again) ginger.
Finish: Long-lasting but not overpowering, the finish features barbeque smoke, vanilla, clove, tobacco leaf, and freshly-cracked peppercorn. The smoke sticks around for the whole shebang.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Buying a bottle of Kirkland Signature Islay Single Malt Scotch for only $39.99 should be illegal. This can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with so many lovely Scotches and beat them on price. If peat is your thing, this will be, too. This may be one of the easiest Bottle ratings I've conveyed in a long time. I don't know how else to say this: Buy it (and please, ye kind whiskey gods, let this be a permanent offering).
Final Note: We've had three pieces of the puzzle that offer a hint to this whisky's origin. The tasting notes offer a few more. It is fairly obvious this is a heavily-peated Scotch. That barbeque quality from the nose and finish is also a clue. I can't swear to it, and this is purely a deductive guess, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say a 100°, heavily-peated Islay Scotch that is very easy on the wallet would be Port Charlotte out of the Bruichladdich distillery. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit, but begs you to do so responsibly.