Google A Coagulation of Caol Ila

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

August 21, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
A Coagulation of Caol Ila
Indeed, samples of Caol Ila appear to be accumulating rapidly at Whiskyfun HQ Edinburgh. Not much needs saying about Caol Ila, it remains one of the most dependable makes in Scotland and when it’s good, it’s often great. Let’s try to go backwards in time as usual and be a tad more concise than we were with the Bruichladdichs last week (ahem!)


Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive (58.8%, OB, 2017, 3000 bottles)

Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive (58.8%, OB, 2017, 3000 bottles)
One of Diageo’s distillery only NAS bottlings that they feature at quite a few of their distillery visitor centres now. Colour: straw. Nose: typically crystalline, clean peat. Chalk, seashore, brine, lemon juice antiseptic. Very ‘millimetric’ as Serge would say. Some nice ashy smokiness in the background. With water: beach pebbles, chalk, sandalwood, seaweed crackers and with a lovely, fresh coastal quality. Mouth: despite the relatively high strength this has a pretty approachable profile. Rather lemony, oily, ashy, kippery and with lots of kiln smoke and mineral salinity. With water: develops towards yeasty sourdough and salty, bready qualities. Very briny and medical now. Pin sharp peaty notes. Finish: long, ashy, smoky, very salty and with quite a bit of sharp lemon juice. Comments: straightforward, clean and very in keeping with this modern blade-like Caol Ila. Very good and the sort of fun thing that would work well for what it’s designed for: cracking open somewhere windy on Islay!
SGP: 367 - 87 points.



Caol Ila 10 yo 2008/2019 (51%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 338 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2008/2019 (51%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 338 bottles)
The pace of bottling appears to be increasing steadily up there at Dornoch Castle, no bad thing as many are very good in my opinion. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh fabrics, linens, pure sea air, lemon peel, chalk and many mineral qualities such as flints and beach pebbles. A rather more elegant and chiselled style of Caol Ila with a pretty direct and brittle minerality. Some fragrant notes of bath salts and dried herbs. With water: petrol cut with seawater. Smoky grist, cooling wort and other pretty raw, unvarnished distillery aromas. A rather coarse coastal edge with a little lemongrass. Mouth: rather dry, salty, autolytic and getting increasingly bready and rich with a few yeasty notes underneath. Very good! Some notes of kippers and brine. With water: a tad sootier and moving towards a greasier peat profile. Boiler smoke, tar and more kippery notes. Some oily smoked mackerel with black pepper as well. Finish: long, herbal, nicely oily, sooty and with a some notes of hessian and seawater. Comments: I’m not sure it bears repeating, but what an impeccable distillate Caol Ila is.
SPG: 366 - 88 points.



Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 (53.6%, Usquabae Bar, cask #311532, bourbon barrel, 328 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 (53.6%, Usquabae Bar, cask #311532, bourbon barrel, 328 bottles)
This for the excellent Usquabae bar in Edinburgh. Well worth a visit if you find yourself in the city. Colour: white wine. Nose: more immediately medical than the TB bottling. More on vapour rubs, antiseptic and elastoplasts. Also rather saline, mineral and lightly cereal. An easy and quite approachable Caol Ila. With water: green apple now, the peelings in particular and some tart cider apples too. Gooseberry, lemon juice and a touch of malty sweetness. Mouth: lots of mouthwatering salinity, beach pebbles, soy sauce, hints of camphor, petrol and mineral oils. Very good and very pristine and crystalline. With water: peaty, medical, very salty and slightly tarry as well. Finish: long again, some more mechanical smokiness such as boiler smoke, engine fumes, tar, hessian and green olives in brine. Comments: It’s fun to spot the wee variations between these young Caol Ilas but they evidently share the same pin-sharp helix of DNA. In other words: a little nurture, but mostly nature. Same score.
SGP: 467 - 88 points.



Caol Ila 14 yo 2005/2019 (54.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #19/051, refill sherry hogshead, 142 bottles)

Caol Ila 14 yo 2005/2019 (54.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #19/051, refill sherry hogshead, 142 bottles)
The Whisky Exchange is 20 years old this year. Happy birthday! Colour: light gold. Nose: indeed there is a different profile here, we’re on a more immediately syrupy and sweet kind of peat. Oily rags, embrocations, whelks, lemon juice, olive oil, anchovies and tar. A few black olives bobbing about in the background. There’s a leathery and gingery quality from the sherry but thankfully it’s nicely restrained and well integrated. With water: evolves more towards wet rocks, sheep wool and herbal cough medicine. A rather camphory and oily edge developing. Mouth: pretty powerful delivery. Although the texture is impressively full and oily. Lots of hessian, peat, wood char and embrocations. Mercurochrome, pink peppercorns, sea salt and coal smoke. Excellent stuff! With water: superbly tarry, herbal, peppery, lightly fishy in a good way and a few nervously salty notes of seaweed and some liquorice. Finish: long, herbal, oily, camphory and full of things like putty, kelp, olive oil mixed with brine and lemon rind. Comments: We’re within a whisker of 90 points here, just lacking that tiny extra layer of complexity to jump over the hurdle. Nevertheless, a great wee cask, very well selected by team TWE!
SGP: 466 - 89 points.



Let’s have a wee break then a couple of lighter ones before going older...



Caol Ila 19 yo 1997/2016 (40.1%, Jack Wiebers ‘Fighting Fish’, sherry, 159 bottles)

Caol Ila 19 yo 1997/2016 (40.1%, Jack Wiebers ‘Fighting Fish’, sherry, 159 bottles)
An unusual one from our German friend Mr Wiebers. I wonder if this is the natural cask strength? I expect so but it’s very low for a 19yo whisky... Colour: gold. Nose: smoked lemons, pear syrup, hessian, liquid seasonings, soy sauce and wee hints of things like old fashioned herbal toothpaste, sheep wool and bandages. It’s light but there’s still a nice sense of roundness and elegance about proceedings. Some pine sap and cough medicine too. Mouth: pickling juices, lemon peel, brine, sardines in oil and a kind of funny mix of golden syrup, chopped herbs and peat embers. It’s really on the lightest end of the Caol Ila spectrum - which is not surprising but definitely interesting to experience as its rather a rare occurrence. Some smoked sea salt and hints of green pepper. Finish: a bit short but quite salty with some nice notes of dried herbs, lime and smoked cereals. Comments: A funny one. Not for most Caol Ila enthusiasts but if you’re looking for an easily quaffable and unusual Islay malt then this will do the trick.
SGP: 454 - 84 points.



Caol Ila 25 yo (43%, OB, 2018)

Caol Ila 25 yo (43%, OB, 2018)
Always a fun bottling to follow. Colour: gold. Nose: ahhh yes! Gentle medical embrocations, dried seaweed, seashore, various shellfish, lemon infused olive oil, dried herbal aspects, some light petrol notes and lots of old school cough medicines. The height of sophistication and elegance! Mouth: this is the missing link between these great early 1980s casks and the mid-1990s ones. Many medical balms, cooking oils, gentle smoke, sootiness and a rather earthy and herbal peat profile. Wee touches of camphor, ink and waxed canvas. Some pebble-driven minerality too. Great balance and perfect poise. Unequivocally excellent. Finish: good length, some wonderfully resinous coastal and salty characteristics. Smoked fish, black pepper, olive tapenade and oyster sauce. Comments: I think this bottling improved again over some previous batches. A kind of old fashioned style of bottling that you might have found more readily in the 1990s (Caol Ila’s Laphroaig 30 year old if you see what I mean?), but I think it really works very well. Effortless and charming stuff.
SGP: 465 - 90 points.



Now, another exciting release from Diageo’s recent ‘Millionaires Malts’ series...



Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2018 (57.1%, OB ‘Casks of Distinction’, cask # 0021, European oak, 288 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2018 (57.1%, OB ‘Casks of Distinction’, cask # 0021, European oak, 288 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: what’s great is that even so many years later these rather chiselled and pure Caol Ila qualities remain not only present but vibrant and direct. Only here there’s an extra layer of coastal complexity, time has also added some distance and a rather deep and elegant nuance. Smoked sea salts, grassy olive oil, gentle medical embrocations, green tea with lemon, bergamot and a rather prickly white pepper note. Typically excellent! With water: a lovely and very easy smoky / cereal combination. Mineral salts, dried seaweed and something like smoked wildflowers. Mouth: pretty powerful and punchy. Raw salinity, sheep wool, various mechanical oils, mineral oil, green peppercorns, smoked teas, hot paprika, lime zest and raw shellfish. Some kind of extremely fresh ceviche perhaps. A rather brittle and pure peatiness with touches of lamp oil and camphor. With water: this lovely oiliness is enhanced and becomes more enveloping and textural. Lots of lemon cough medicines, citrus infused oils and syrups. Also quite a few dried herbs such as verbena, parsley and bay leaf. Some big notes of hessian too. Finish: long and rather drying, ashy, herbal, lightly briny, some sharper lemon juice notes and very pleasant warming peatiness. Comments: No surprises here, but still abundant pleasure. Many of these early 80s Caol Ilas are still holding at pretty high strengths even after 35+ years now. I suspect these are the kinds of bottles that will really become stellar with time in glass in around 20-30 years. A wee treat for survivors of civilizational collapse, lol! Have a lovely weekend.
SGP: 465 - 91 points.



(Big thanks to Gene and Dirk.)




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







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