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

December 4, 2018


Crazy Caol Ila

Long time no Caol Ila on WF, si? Bah… (that was some introduction S., congrats!) We’ll try to act swiftly today, but as usual, we may well fail…

Caol Ila 2008/2018 (53.4%, Duncan Taylor, The Octave, cask #4016843)

Caol Ila 2008/2018 (53.4%, Duncan Taylor, The Octave, cask #4016843) Three stars
Three months in an active octave (woo-hoo, S.!) that changes a man. I mean, a whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: philosophically, I’ve never been a fan of speedy oak-doping on whisky, but I have to say that rather often works, which seems to be pretty much the case here. A fresh CaolIlaness for a start, and then some fresher lemongrass-like aromas that should have come from the oak. Something of a lemony cough syrup. With water: Caol Ila plus vanilla, doesn’t fail. Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu, indeed, that worked. Sure there’s a little too much vanilla and a feeling of sawdust and ginger, but on the other hand, balance has been preserved and the well-chiselled distillate keeps shining through. With water: rather more on ginger, I would say, and sour white wine, Muscadet… Finish: medium, with touches of ginger again, sourdough, nutmeg… Comments: the very good people at Duncan Taylor have provided me with the original distillate, before it got octaved, which was cool. I liked it a little better for it was cleaner and fresher, but I can see why someone else would prefer the ‘prepared’ version.
SGP:456 - 80 points.

Wait, just checking something…

Caol Ila 15 yo 1992/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2)

Caol Ila 15 yo 1992/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: right, this one is/was epitomically fresh and maritime, with oysters, lemons, kelp, damp fabric, rainwater, ink, and beach sand on Islay after the rain. Right, any day. Mouth: goody good, creamy, uncomplicated, with some limoncello and oyster juice, brine, oysters again, and perhaps langoustines covered with custard (what mad soul…?) Finish: medium, brine-y, lemony. Comments: just wanted to check something.
SGP:456 - 85 points.

CI11 2008/2018 (55.4%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, oloroso sherry butts, 1206 bottles, 2018)

CI11 2008/2018 (55.4%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, oloroso sherry butts, 1206 bottles, 2018) Three stars and a half
In theory, this should go hassle free. Colour: gold. Nose: there is this kind of manzanilla-like sourness that can work so well with peaters. Mustard, charcoal, lit cigars, old riesling, camphor, whelks, garden peat. With water: wet dogs (we sure owe you, dogs) and soot. Mouth (neat): unusual and good, and indeed pretty sour. Lime juice, seawater, grape skins, that dandy old riesling, grapefruit juice, and touches of lemony oak, whatever that means.  There are, indeed, notes of ‘oak preparation’ akin (but less obvious) to those that were to be found in DT’s Octave. With water: careful, whiskies that have seen active oak within their lives don’t always swim well. So, only a few drops here, please. Some pineapples; bizarrely, pineapples often come with active American oak. Finish: long, appropriately sour and fruity. Comments: there may have been a little wizardry behind this bottling, but I like it, even if I tend to prefer the blade-ier Cis (I had CI10 at WF 90, for exemple).
SGP:556 - 84 points.

Hold on before we go on, looks like I’ve never formally tasted CI8… So, CI8…

CI8 2008/2017 (55.2%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrels)

CI8 2008/2017 (55.2%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrels) Four stars
From five barrels, so no sherry this time (yeah pushing at open doors again…) Colour: white wine. Nose: if I write katana-y, will you believe I’ve gone even madder? Right but indeed, this is extremely clean, vertical, narrow, and all on seashells and pure lemon juice. With water: w andering throughout a working kiln. Watch your clothes. Mouth (neat): perfect clean, narrow, yet slightly fattish (coz of the barrels) CI. Smoked limoncello blended with seawater. With water: millimetrically pure ex-bourbon Caol Ila. In other words, vanilla-coated peaty whisky. Finish: long, a tad fat, perhaps. Comments: marvellous, but perhaps just a tad too vanilla-ed for me. I know, splitting fairy hairs.
SGP:457 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 2007/2018 (50.3%, Les Grands Alambics, 136 bottles)

Caol Ila 2007/2018 (50.3%, Les Grands Alambics, 136 bottles) Four stars and a half
Here come some wee French bottlers acting with flair. I’d take this opportunity to show many international friends how one ought to properly write the word ‘alambic’. Colour: white wine. Nose: right, kiwi and lime juices, garden bonfire, angelica, small flat oysters (I would suggest Prat-Ar-Coum – never mind), and a wee chalkiness. Very elegant and pure, this young Caol Ila. With water: gets more medicinal. Mercurochrome and bandages, plus anchovie paste. Mouth (neat): exactly. A drop of agave syrup in lemon and oyster juices, plus kippers and green pepper corns. All that works in perfect sync, it’s almost the John Coltrane Quartet (yeah, or Abba, as you like, as long as you don’t mention the Osmonds). With water: exactly perfect. Lemon liqueur, a touch of salt, sardines, cigarette ashes, and a little crushed chalk. Finish: long, pristinely lemony and salty. Comments: as good as it gets at ten or eleven years of age. Well selected, The Tall Stills!
SGP:457 - 88 points.

Perhaps a last Caol Ila, let’s make it an old one…

Caol Ila 33 yo 1984/2017 (50.1%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, for SCSM China, refill hogshead, cask #11925, 250 bottles)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1984/2017 (50.1%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, for SCSM China, refill hogshead, cask #11925, 250 bottles) Five stars
I can’t see what could go wrong here, even if the honourable bottlers have added this to the label: “Ridiculously Rare”. Which, in itself, is perhaps a little r…….. as this is neither Stromness nor Malt Mill (more about the latter soon on WF, but shhh…) Colour: gold. Nose: get-out-of-here! An ode to proper aging, with stunning notes of old teas and tobaccos, embrocations, old polished pieces of furniture, overripe quinces (as quinces should be), and secret oils straight from Leonardo’s workshop. With water: what I’ve always liked in old Caol Ilas was the appearances of fish oils, fresh almonds, and old earthy Chinese teas. As if by chance, that’s exactly what’s happening here. Also wee mangos that they may have borrowed from Bowmore’s. Mouth (neat): extraordinarily firm and vibrant (professors would write ‘assertive’), with a rubbery/mentholy side that comes from the old wood, and a very complex blend of herbal teas and tarry ointments. Well, that, more or less. With water: careful, please never drown these oldsters. Actually, it doesn’t even stand a single drop of H2O on the palate or it would become dry and drying. No water is the way here. Finish: perfect when undiluted, with tropical fruits dancing right on your tongue. Comments: superb, just getting a tad difficult (weak and drying, with a touch of lousy coconut) as soon as you’re only intending to add the tiniest drops of water. Not that it would need any at 50.1% ABV, anyways. Big medicinal smoke at 33 years of age!
SGP:457 - 90 points.

All right, we’ve got an even older one. Some kind of extremely rare bonus, I you like… In fact it the oldest Caol Ila ever, and it is brand new!

Caol Ila 50 yo 1968/2018 (52.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill sherry hogshead, 190 bottles)

Caol Ila 50 yo 1968/2018 (52.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill sherry hogshead, 190 bottles) Five stars
This is hard to fathom, Gordon & MacPhail were still having a cask (and possibly more) of Caol Ila from the old distillery! In truth these whiskies have become legendary, not only because they are now all old and rare, also because they were stunning whiskies, rather bolder than the ‘new’ Caol Ilas and nearer to the malts from the island’s south shore. I’ll add that all the 1968s from G&M (especially the Italians, Intertrade, Meregali…) were absolutely stunning, often +/-95-material. Which explains why I just cannot wait… Colour: gold. Nose: camphor, garden bonfire, old embrocations, new linoleum (ask your parents, youngsters!), a pack of mint drops, Chartreuse (let’s not push things, not obligatorily Tarragona), vinyl acetate, rubber boots, angelica, menthol cigarettes, fresh mushrooms… Well you got it, there’s some kind of complexity in here, but let’s see if and how it swims. With water: but it would cross the Atlantic! Fantastic, wonderfully brine-y, very fresh, coastal, a tad tarry, smoky… This very profile is very hard to beat, and specifically ‘old Caol Ila’. Mouth (neat): it’s a blessing that the strength remained quite high, this is still fresh and, as we all say, vibrant. We’re finding bitter citrus, a touch of wine vinegar, oysters, crystallised apples, Seville oranges, this feeling of sucking hessian or your tissue, smoked meats and fish, various candied fruits, and the subtlest smoked marmalade ever (provided someone already tried to make smoked marmalade). With water: amazing, tense, salty, as sooty as old CI could be, ashy, with a few pine needles and a smidgen of top-of-range toothpaste. And lemon. Finish: rather long, just perfectly fresh, which really comes as a surprise. Comments: an ode to age, or the new Helen Mirren of Scotch whisky. Congratulations, G&M! When bottlers write that a particular whisky was bottled ‘at its peak’, we usually take that as marketing speech (hot air, if you prefer). Not the case at all here, that’s actually totally possible. But we know that Caol Ila ages gracefully (right, just like Helen Mirren).
SGP:564 - 93 points.

(Thank you Fuji and Lucero)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far






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