And that’s another country I can now cross off my ‘have I tasted a whisky from this country?’ list. St. Killian is a pretty young distillery, as its foundation just goes back to 2015. Unlike many young distilleries, they produce only whisky. No gin, no vodka, no rum, just whisky. They do produce whisky liqueur, however, but using their own whisky. With a 200.000 litres per year capacity, St. Kilian is one of the biggest whisky distilleries in Germany. By the way, I recently learnt that Germany is second to Scotland only regarding the number of whisky distilleries, with more than 250 grain distilleries producing whisky, and 130 out of those declaring themselves specifically as whisky distilleries. However, when I look at the German distilleries mentioned in the Malt Whisky Yearbook from Ingvar Ronde (a must-read!), I have to admit I’ve ever heard of only two of them. Two possible reasons: either they’re not exported much, or I’m an ignorant. Meh, probably a bit of both. Anyway, time to review two of their oldest expressions (in terms of date of release, not age): the St. Kilian Signature Edition Three and Four.
St. Kilian Signature Edition Three Review
The St. Kilian Signature Edition Three was distilled in 2016 and matured for 94% in Tennessee ex-Bourbon whiskey barrels and 6% in eel-bourbon quarter casks until 2019. The outturn gave 6.300 bottles at 50% ABV, without chill filtration nor colouring. It seems RRP was probably around €40 for a 500 ml bottle when it was released. At the time of writing, it seems only one Swiss shop is stocking it, but they don’t ship outside Switzerland and Liechtenstein anyway. One
idiot flipper assh*le is trying to sell a bottle at €300 on the Whiskybase Market if you’re really desperate, thrice the price of the other bottles available on the WB market!
Neat: malt, vanilla, sweet peat. The peat, though soft, covers everything, so let’s try that after letting it rest in the glass for a bit. After some time, stone fruits (apricot, peach, plum) start to shine through. Some citrus notes too and a bit of pineapple.
After reduction: it becomes a bit fruitier, with hints of anise.
Neat: Thinner mouthfeel than I’d expect at first, then smokes and alcohol hit arrive after a couple seconds. Citrus notes again, fruity ones too but a bit blurry, it’s mostly sweet peat and spices, with a touch of wood.
Smoky but more subtle than on the palate, slightly ashy,
I’ve tasted this St. Kilian (and the next one below) without researching them first, and I was surprised to discover they were quite heavily peated. In the case of this Signature Edition Three, the peat and the youth make that the peat did not have time to integrate as well as it would with a few years more in the cask, and it covers a bit too much the other flavours, both on the nose and the palate. The fruits lack a bit of definition as well. Encouraging anyway, I wouldn’t mind trying one that had three more years and see how it evolved.
St. Kilian Signature Edition Four Review
The Signature Edition Four was distilled in 2016 too, and was their most heavily peated at the time, with a phenol content of 54 ppm in the malt. 10.700 bottles were filled in 2020 after a maturation in a combination of Andalusian Oloroso + PX sherry casks. No chill filtration nor added colouring were involved, and the RRP at the time seemed to have been around €43 for a 500 ml bottle. Same remarks as the Signature Edition Three regarding availability and secondary market.
Neat: Sweet peat, dried fruits, something between hints of sulphur or rotting fruits, mechanical grease, olive oil.
With water: the off-notes disappeared. Smoked ham.
Neat: Sweet arrival, then slight citrusy sourness. The peat slowly grows in strength with campfire smoke. There are some dark berries, dark chocolate, hints of anise, unlit cigar, and some wood spices and bitterness. Herbal notes, and something slightly off on the palate as well.
With water: slightly sweeter. As on the nose, water removes the off-notes. More chocolate, like chocolate mousse.
Smoky, slightly herbal, spices, short-medium length.
Despite the slightly off notes when neat, I think I like it better than the Signature Edition 3. The sherry (Oloroso and PX) casks maybe work better with St. Kilian’s peated spirit when it’s bottled young. There’s potential here as well, and you have to remember that those two expressions use spirit distilled the year after the distillery was founded, so I guess they were still trying to find they way, and will probably do for quite some time, you can’t get everything right on the first try. But though I would not hurry to buy a bottle of this Signature Edition 4, I’m still curious to see how it would be with a few more years under its belt. If any of you, dear readers, have samples from latter editions to offer or sell, I’m all ears.
Thank you Luna for the samples!