Google Caol Ila, second part

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

May 24, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Caol Ila, second part

There will be a part III tomorrow that'll include the tasty new Feis Caol Ila.



Caol Ila 9 yo 2013/2023 (59.6%, Watt Whisky, hogshead)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2013/2023 (59.6%, Watt Whisky, hogshead) Four stars
They're having both excellent whiskies and excellent rums at Watt Whisky these days. Colour: Pale white wine. Nose: Fantastically pure, almost entirely focused on lime, chalk, and iodine tincture to begin with, then more towards beach sand, crushed oyster shells, slate, and lemon juice. A millimetric aspect that is hard to resist. With water: no significant development, except for more brine. Palate (neat): more crystalline than crystal itself but extremely salty. No, not saltier than salt, let's not exaggerate. It is also very peaty, with hints of bell pepper and black pepper in the background. The oysters are also back. With water: traces of youth, slightly fermentary and rubbery, but still at a high level. The brine is still very present. Finish: long, still very salty, then peppery in the aftertaste. I would suspect the bottlers of secretly pouring a few litres of water from the Irish Sea into this hogshead while everyone was feasting at the Ardshiel Hotel. Comments: there is a rude and rebellious side linked to its youth, but it is greatly enjoyable. A very handsome brute.
SGP: 466 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 25 yo 1997 (60.5%, Cordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW, Antipodes, first fill sherry butt, cask #12498, 529 bottles)

Caol Ila 25 yo 1997 (60.5%, Cordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW, Antipodes, first fill sherry butt, cask #12498, 529 bottles) Five stars
Let's say that we expect a certain power here, even though the colour is quite light for a first-fill sherry. Let's see... Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's not the sherry that dominates first, it's rather small minty herbs that then lead to green walnuts, which in turn lead to superb medicinal touches, cough syrup, camphor, eucalyptus, essential oils for inhalations... With water: oh yes, you could do inhalations with this baby. It's already an old Caol Ila, in the best sense of the term, but it hasn't given up an inch in terms of freshness. Some notes of bresaola and minty English sauce. Palate (neat): masterful, already evolved indeed (in the right sense), with lots of candied citron, small aromatic herbs, green bananas, and grapefruit. The peat remains powerful and the walnuts accompany it all. With water: fantastic citrus of all kinds, accompanied by fresh mint, seawater, oysters, and green walnuts. Finish: salt arrives majestically, reminding us that Caol Ila is a coastal distillery. The greatest one, isn't it? Smoked almonds and lapsang souchong in the aftertaste. Comments: there's not much to add, except that one wonders if 1997 wasn't a magical vintage throughout the Isle of Islay, what do you think? Nothing to do with those big, slightly suffocating first-fill sherries.

SGP: 656 - 90 points.

Let's try again…

Caol Ila 1997/2022 (60.7%, Gordon & MacPhail for Kirsch Import, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #12495, 561 bottles)

Caol Ila 1997/2022 (60.7%, Gordon & MacPhail for Kirsch Import, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #12495, 561 bottles) Five stars
The theory would suggest that this baby is quite similar, let's see about that... Colour: pale gold. Nose: by Zoroaster, indeed we are extremely close, to the point where it is almost impossible to distinguish them on the nose. That's rather good news! There may be just a little more vanilla and butterscotch, and that's about it. Perhaps also a tiny bit more camphor, but let's not get lost in comparing the two, we could spend "hours and litres" on that. Palate (neat): oh, how close it is, and consequently, how good it is! With these citrus notes, there's an irresistible ti'punch aspect. Remember, white rum, cane syrup, lemon juice, that's all. Finish: long and absolutely splendid. Comments: one can only remember some extraordinary G&M 'CASK' distilled in the 1970s, true racehorses. Nothing more to add, except that three guys in a factory can make one of the very best whiskies in the world.
SGP: 656 - 90 points.

Let's go back to the 1980s... (didn't you say 'un-vertically' yesterday?)

Caol Ila 1989 (58.4%, Caledonian Select, Rinaldi Import, barrel, cask #4672)

Caol Ila 1989/2000 (58.4%, Caledonian Selection, Rinaldi Import, barrel, cask #4672) Four stars and a half
What can we say about this version? Perhaps that there also used to be a very crazy Ledaig in these decanters? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it's a bit more rustic than the 1997s, but it's also younger. Grapefruit liqueur, Szechuan pepper, more paraffin than in the others, a touch of white vinegar, lemon juice, perhaps a hint of fresh Gruyère cheese, a very subtle ammonia note... With water: the low tide sea, mussels, oysters, and white wine... Chalk and sourdough in the background. Palate (neat): grapefruit and paraffin dominate, but those acetic and fermentary notes are still there. We could perhaps pour this Caol Ila into a fondue, instead of kirsch. Oh, there's even a bit of garlic. With water: candied citrus takes control, immediately followed by that very maritime peat that we know well. Finish: long and citrusy. Salt as well, of course, while the fermentary and even bacterial notes have disappeared. A touch of white pepper at the very end. Comments: this one was a bit more convoluted, we would say.

SGP: 555 - 88 points.

Caol Ila 40 yo 1982 (49.5%, The Whisky Exchange, Celebrating 50 Years)

Caol Ila 40 yo 1982/2022 (49.5%, The Whisky Exchange, Celebrating 50 Years) Five stars
Another one of those celebratory whiskies that the fine team at TWE has decided to offer to the world. It's undoubtedly a better idea than all those releases commemorating Charles' coronation, of which we have counted, to this date, no less than 1,325,584,63 different versions - as many as gold medals and other awards in San Francisco or London. It was worth implementing AI in the marketing teams! Colour: pale gold. Nose: I believe that like its sibling Clynelish, Caol Ila is one of those malts that age the best, without flinching and without losing a bit of freshness over the decades. Here is another proof, in any case, with citrus, waxes, embrocations, and aromatic herbs frolicking like children at recess. Even chalk and clay are still present, as are seaweed or the most ancient herbal medicinal lotions made from tar or long-forgotten materials. Or forbidden ones. Palate: well, let's bow down. The exotic fruits are out, without replacing the peaty grapefruit and the peppery seawater. Well, you know what I mean. There's also that very, very slight acetic aspect that we had already found in the 1989, but it is much less prominent here. Finish: not endless, but sublimely lemony, smoky, and saline. The grapefruits remain in ambush, while the wax makes a noticeable comeback. Comments: we were surprised by the freshness of these batches when they turned 30, then when they reached 35, and we still are as they now reach 40. See you in ten years, same place, same time...
SGP: 665 - 92 points.

Perhaps an older bottling before we call this a session…

Caol Ila 1977/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Caol Ila 1977/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Four stars and a half
This is what we used to call 'the old map label'. We tried a 1977 Jas. Gordon, another one in the CASK series, but never a CC, now I don't think there ever were many 1977s. Remember they had bulldozed and rebuilt Caol Ila in 1972, going from 2 to 6 stills along the process. Colour: gold. Nose: delicate, with hints of smoked salmon, bruised apples, coal dust, and some pencil shavings. Pear cake, tarte tatin, old beeswax, old books... It's all wonderful, but it whispers a bit, shall we say. Touches of oil paint and linseed oil. It's truly refined and delicate. Palate: we find the Caol Ila smoke, accompanied by slightly green apples and again, waxes. It's not extremely maritime, but the smoke is definitely present. It then becomes a bit cardboard-like, but that's the fate of many old malts bottled at 40% ABV, even more so when they have been (slightly) darkened with caramel. Finish: a bit short but very clean, with green walnuts tickling the back of your palate. Like in the early sherried ones we tasted! Comments: it's honestly very, very good, but at 40%, it's better to go for the old Caol Ila versions, 1968, 1969, 1970... If one can!

SGP: 544 - 88 points.

(First written in French, then experimentally translated – who's asked, 'but to which language?')
(Thank you, Lukas and Tom!)

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







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