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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

August 8, 2013



The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Caol Ila
(2000s, 1991, 1981, 1979, 1969)

I believe one word may describe Caol Ila better than others, it’s the word ‘consistency’. Caol Ila is always, and I mean always to my liking, I don’t think I’ve tried a dud since ages.

Port Askaig 12 yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2013)

Port Askaig 12 yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2013) Three stars Let’s assume this was distilled in the very early 2000s. Of course, I have no proof that this is Caol Ila. Hold on, Port Askaig… It could also be Bunnahabhain! Colour: white wine. Nose: we aren’t far from the official 12 here, it’s even got these notes of fresh butter and apple juice. There’s also a little aniseed (lovely hints of ouzo) and then the trademark light brine, oysters and peat smoke. Also touches of antiseptic. A clean nose, much in line with what was to be expected. The smoke tends to become bigger. Mouth: youthful and joyful – and a little rough, maybe. The saltiness strikes first – it’s very briny – and then come apples and lemons, while the smoke is quite green and almost bitter. I like this but I cannot not think this baby would be even better on ice. Finish: long and always very salty. Comments: so, a good salty youngster, maybe a little raw. I had a quick go at other recent Port Askaigs and they’ve been more to my liking, we’ll taste them more ‘formally’ in the coming weeks. SGP:257 - 80 points.

Caol Ila 22 yo 1991/2013 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, bourbon, 637 bottles)

Caol Ila 22 yo 1991/2013 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, bourbon, 637 bottles) Three stars From the first batch of these new ‘black’ ones by Cadenhead. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s very briny and very coastal. A large plate of oysters, some kippers as well, then a little grapefruit and more seawater. Maybe a little pineapple too, that wasn’t expected. It’s a light, elegant yet straightforward nose. More barley water and almonds after ten minutes. Mouth: it’s pretty big, we aren’t far from the Port Askaig. So very salty too, it’s almost brine, with also a grassy feeling. Apple skins, fresh walnuts… Finish: quite long, a tad prickly, slightly bitter and always salty. Slightly bandage-y too. Comments: simply another good Caol Ila. A trial run before the excellent new 'square' ones that are just out? SGP:267 - 81 points.

Caol Ila 31 yo 1981/2012 (54.2%, Duncan Taylor for Silver Seal)

Caol Ila 31 yo 1981/2012 (54.2%, Duncan Taylor for Silver Seal) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: these 1981s can rock, and this one does. The peat is already ‘degraded’, which is great mind you because with age, peat can ‘explode’ into many phenolic smells plus tropical fruits (think old Bowmore or Laphroaig). It’s rather linseed oil here, passion fruits, motor oil, green cigars, then kippers again and maybe ‘old seashells’. Empty ones, gathered at low tide. Nice touches of ‘a pack of lemon drops’. With water: we go more toward raw wool, beach sand, a little ink… Mouth (neat): very good, this one. Powerful, salty and lemony (I think the lemon was missing a bit in the two younger ones), with many sappy and almondy notes, between putty and walnut cake. Cider apples. With water: ah yes! Sweeter, easier, complex, salty, smoky, putty-like, with some marzipan and anchoiade (right, right, it’s crushed anchovies with olive oil and various spices, typically Provence). Finish: medium length, on salted and smoked almonds and, guess what? Anchovies! Comments: all very good. SGP:366 - 89 points.

Caol Ila 33 yo 1979/2012 (53.2%, Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, Zurich, Switzerland)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1979/2012 (53.2%, Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, Zurich, Switzerland) Five stars My excellent neighbours the Swiss are more and more active on the global whisky scene. Colour: pale straw. Nose: after the rather fruity 1981, this one is rather drier and smokier at first sniffs, we’re more geared toward ‘old garage’ stuff, oils, petrol, greases and tyres. Becomes more coastal then, with maybe anchovies in salt and, well, tinned sardines. Lovely nose. With water: classic lapsang souchong. Oh, I’ll take this opportunity, since I often quote lapsang souchong, to tell you that I perfectly know that LS is NOT for tea geeks ;-). I still like good lapsang souchong! Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the 1981 on the palate, with pretty much the same lemon, salt and nutty flavours. Smoked oysters, a little eucalyptus. Powerful dram. With water: it’s a greener and leafier version. Many herbs, including bitter ones, then more waxy notes and ashes. Finish: long, balanced between the smoke and bitter herbs. Medicinal aftertaste (cough lozenges and such). Oh, and brine. Comments: the straightness and the dryness are assets here. SGP:356 - 90 points.

Caoll Ila 1969/2004 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, sherry, casks #1755/1760, 374 bottles)

Caoll Ila 1969/2004 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, sherry, casks #1755/1760, 374 bottles) Four stars This old ones could be fab I’m wary of reduced ones. Colour: dark amber. Nose: well, it’s a notch weak at very first sniffs but what’s deep inside seems to be very complex. Let’s wait a little longer… zzz… Good, indeed, there are more notes of old walnuts, butter cream, smoked tea, marmalade and various chutneys (probably mango, maybe pineapple), some soot, some metal polish (do you know Glanzol? It’s a genuine Alsatian brand!)… Touches of old white wine as well but the whole remains a little shy. Also touches of camphor, then aniseed and wormwood after a good fifteen minutes. Maybe smoked cheese as well? Curious about the palate… Mouth: the oak’s taken over, or is about to. It’s not that it’s unpleasant, not at all, but the distillate hasn’t much to say anymore, there’s just an acrid smokiness. The older (so younger) Caol Ilas by G&M could be magnificent, but I feel these casks were a little tired. Having said that, should you wait a little longer, the mentholated and resinous notes can be very interesting. Isn’t this eugenol? That would be C10H12O2. Just trying to be smart. Finish: of medium length, always woody and resinous. Astonishingly, the aftertaste is neither too drying nor too astringent. Mint. Comments: I think very old peaters are always having trouble on the palate, whichever the distillery. It’s the Ardbeg ’65 syndrome. Now, the nose was quite brilliant! SGP:285 - 86 points.

(with thanks to Markus and Philip)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Caol Ila I've tasted so far


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