April 2, 2019
Distillery: Unknown, bottled by Alexander Murray & Co.
Type & Region: Scotch, Scotland, UK
Composition: 100% Malted barley
Aged: 18 years in ex-bourbon casks, finished in sherry casks
Price: $40-50 (750mL)
From the back of the bottle:
“From one of Scotland’s most prominent whisky-producing regions, comes this Kirkland Signature 18 Year Old Speyside Single Malt. Kirkland Signature brings you this fine bottling of Speyside Single Malt, aged in ex-bourbon casks and then finished in sherry casks. This results in a scotch that is dark amber in color with aromas of sherry and a subtle smokiness which delivers a complex palate and a dry, slightly floral finish. It’s perfect for after-dinner drinking, on the rocks.”
Kirkland 18 Year Speyside Single Malt Scotch is a whiskey sold through Costco’s private label brand using Alexander Murray as its independent bottler. The Speyside label is a reference to the region, but because it’s a single malt it comes from a single distillery. The exact distillery is kept secret but is rumored to be Macallan or Aberlour.
Full disclosure, this 40% Speyside single malt no longer exists, replaced in 2017 with the 46% alcohol version. With so many 18-year-old Scotches costing at least $100 (e.g., The Glenlivet 18 at around $130), the $40-50 the Kirkland 18 Year Speyside looks like a steal, so let’s see if it is.
The bourbon aging and sherry finishing are immediately apparent. On my first sniff, I smell moderate amounts of bright and vibrant oranges, peaches, green grapes, and papaya with flowery and earthy honey nectar and just a little malt. There also are hints of walnuts and dates from the sherry finishing. Kirkland Speyside Single Malt may not be big on alcohol content, but it certainly smells nice like an 18 year old single malt.
Swirling brings forth the sweet nectar and honey with a little nuttiness, orange zest, and graham cracker malt. It’s a bright and floral smell with a touch of wood and vanilla from the relatively long aging. I barely smell any alcohol, in part from the low alcohol content and in part from having adjusted to much higher proof whiskey. Overall, Kirkland 18 does not have a particularly powerful scent, but it’s very pleasant and enjoyable. It’s a good start.
Kirkland 18 Year Speyside Single Malt tastes very much like it smells. It’s nutty and malty up front from the sherry finishing with moderate honey, apricot, wood, vanilla, buttercream, spice, and minimal alcohol. In my humble opinion, 40% is a terrible proof for older single malts. Why let whiskey age for nearly two decades just to water it down and take away from everything it has to offer?
Spending a little more time with the Kirkland Single malt, I primarily taste honey and grapefruit with a little bit of the tangy and bitter white skin on it. Sprinkles of cocoa, wood, clove, and nutmeg line the sweetness, and I definitely get a little vanilla buttercream here and there. Interestingly, the buttercream sweetness sometimes fades and it kind of tastes like melted butter. The flavors overall are good and potentially could be great, but are severely hindered because the Scotch was so heavily watered down. I shared a similar sentiment with the Jameson 12 Distillery Reserve. It’s a real shame, so I’m glad Costco chose to increase the alcohol to 46%.
The Kirkland 18 finishes slightly sweet but mostly woody with a gentle dark and oily bitterness, showing its age. Chewing brings out a little more sweet, oily, and bitter citrus, very much like the aftertaste of eating an orange with a little peel left on it.
Kirkland Speyside Single Malt 18 is a drinkable and enjoyable, if not unspectacular, whiskey, very much like the Kirkland 25 Blended Scotch, although I prefer the 18 to the 25 year. It’s underwhelming for an 18-year Scotch, but good overall as a gentle and non-offensive sipping whiskey. As I mentioned before, as of 2017 there’s a new version of the Speyside Single Malt 18 that has 46% alcohol, so I hope that the extra proof drastically improves the experience.
Costco really should stop messing around and release a cask-strength Scotch; I bet it would be very good. There probably are better Scotches in the $40-50 range as long as you’re not fixated on the age statement, but you can also do a lot worse at the same time.