Port Askaig 17 Year old

The un-Caol Ila

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20th Mar 2010

Reviewer rating:


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Tasting Notes by olivier

CONTEXT: I purchased this bottle on the recommendation of my local stockist, as Port Askaig has widely been rumored to be from the Caol Ila distillery. I’d recently finished my bottle of Caol Ila 12yo, while the 18yo seemed way too expensive (over 100 Euros) and had had mixed reviews compared to the 12yo, so I thought this would be an interesting compromise.

NOSE: Tingling, not unpleasant, but bordering on aggressive. The main smell is burnt rubber and medicinal. Very little smoke for something touted as a Caol Ila (I’m starting to think that this will not be what I thought it would be). Adding water removes the aggressivity, but does not really change the overall nose (still no smoke to speak of).

PALATE: Definitely not Caol Ila (in my personal opinion); austere, thin, extremely drying and a bit sour. No viscosity, no unctuousness, no smoke. Strong ethylic component along with the burnt tire first detected in the nosing. Adding water unleashes a bitterness (akin to the Jaegermeister and Underberg bitters that one finds in Germany) that goes on to relentlessly dominate the palate from then on. The bitterness is not unpleasant, but it really takes over the whole show. Though this malt feels very thin on the palate, the bitterness of its finish really permeates the mouth (BTW: I am quite certain that I am not confusing bitterness and peatiness).

FINISH: The finish really has 2 components. A strongly tingling on the front of the tongue which remains for a minute or so. On the other hand, the bitterness remains for a long time. In fact, I had 3 servings of about 4cl, separated by about 15 minutes each, and each time the bitter finish was still strong as I sipped each new serving, thus creating an accretion of bitterness in the palate. After the 2 serving, a smallish amount of fruitiness did emerge, but only marginally.

APPRECIATION: First of all, in my opinion, if you buy this whisky expecting Caol Ila, then you will be cruelly disappointed. I stress this point because I have seen many respected commentators (including one of my favorites, Ralfy) making a strong case for this really being Caol Ila. They may very well be right, technically, but be warned that you will not find, in the Port Askaig 17yo, the smokiness and unctuousness that Caol Ila aficionados have come to expect.

More generally, and leaving aside the Caol Ila misunderstanding, this is an interesting whisky. It is in the same extreme phenolic league as other Islay malts such as Ardberg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin, but with a bitter component that stands it apart from these (and which I enjoyed). That being said, it is much too thin and drying for my liking, and I will likely not return to this bottle often. At over 70 Euros a bottle, once this bottle is finished, I do not plan to buy another one.


Whisky details


Port Askaig


17 Year old




Fino Sherry



WhiskyNotes wrote:

How can you say this is not Caol Ila when you've only tried one expression...? Port Askaig 17yo is a very nice example of what a good independent Coal Ila can be like. Lots of question marks with this review.

20 March 2010 17:58

WhiskyP wrote:

@WhiskyNotes I think Olivier can say that because it is his opinion and he is entitled to express it. I notice you have attacked Olivier twice in 24 hours. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that since English is not your first language something is getting lost in translation. If however its not a poor grasp of the subtle niceties of the English language, and you are being vindictive, I suggest you have a little think about whether you want to be part of this community. If the opinions expressed are below your level of experience and frustrate you why not remain in isolation with your (admittedly excellent) blog. If you want to join in then play nice. Fair enough?

20 March 2010 19:00

LeFrog wrote:

@WhiskyP I think you might be being over sensitive. We all have the right to question.

I'm sure no offense was meant or taken anyway. :)

20 March 2010 19:37

jdcook wrote:

I think alternative viewpoints are great! Obviously @Olivier didn't enjoy this dram, and doesn't compare well to the particular Caol Ila bottling he has had in the past (and therefore probably isn't a Caol Ila. @WhiskyNotes thinks the opposite, and said so. It means that anyone reading this review now gets both points of view, and that is a good thing. The more information readers have, the better informed their decisions as to what drams to buy will be.

So to @Olivier, good review, thanks for putting it together. And to @WhiskyNotes, thanks for sharing your experiences as well! Everyone should keep doing what they are doing... :)

21 March 2010 00:00

PeatAndMeat wrote:

All taken the wrong way IMHO. We should keep on challenging ideas, otherwise we won't get anywhere.



21 March 2010 00:17

olivier wrote:

Wow, guys! Thank you for taking the time to read my review and for all the feedback. In the future, I will try to be more circumspect in my pronouncements and I will make sure that they come out in as unpretentious a manner as they were meant to be.

As regards the present review, let me clarify 3 issues.

I did not mean to say this was a bad whisky. A “bad” whisky would have meant, for me, a rating below 5 (a failing grade). As a total neophyte, I would feel extremely uncomfortable passing such a harsh sentence. Actually, as a neophyte, I already feel uncomfortable issuing any rating (the subject of another thread) and therefore I gave it a “B” (70-75%), which in my school years, was always an honorable grade for “essay” subjects where there is no right and wrong answer (such as literature, philosophy, …). I thought that the context of my rating was apparent from the text of my review, but I will try to make it even more so in the future.

My comment that I would not be replenishing this bottle, once it was finished, was not even meant to imply that I did not personally like this whisky. It just reflected the fact that, as a totally unknown neophyte, I have to pay for all the whisky I taste, and as an amateur, I cannot even write it off as a business expense. Therefore, I must make choices in the way I allocate my whisky budget. I did not mean to disparage.

Finally, as a neophyte, I may have been reckless in giving my opinion on the putative provenance of the Port Askaig whisky. And, for awhile, I thought of cutting this part out of my review. As WhiskyNotes pointed out, my experience is limited to the 12yo and 18yo expressions of Caol Ila, while on his site he has reviews for 12 expressions of Caol Ila (including 2 Port Askaig ones). But I finally decided to keep this part of the review for other neophytes, like me, for whom the most accessible and affordable expression of Caol Ila is, in my opinion, the 12yo. I now see that I should have been more careful in specifying that the “Caol Ila taste” that I referred to was only based on my experience with the 12yo and 18yo. Live and learn ;-)

21 March 2010 05:48

WhiskyP wrote:

@WhiskyNotes On reflection I may have over reacted with my previous comment, so please accept my appologies. I'm sure you meant no offense. I think Olivier is very bold to express his opinions (right or wrong) and I'd hate new reviewers to feel intimidated, this is after all a wonderful community and I think we're hear to share and learn.

21 March 2010 10:15

WhiskyNotes wrote:

It was never my intention to "attack" olivier in any way, but he made a bold statement, so I think I can make a bold reaction. Everyone has the right to express his opinion or appreciation about a certain whisky, but pretending things about 'the Coal Ila taste' is simply not possible unless you know a distillery in all of its aspects.

@WhiskyP In fact I felt more blown away by your reaction than by the review itself, but no hard feelings!

21 March 2010 10:30

WhiskyNotes wrote:

By the way, there is a good reason why distilleries sell some of their casks to independent bottlers. In many cases, the official distillery profile is quite different from what you can find in independent releases. Since buyers expect consistency from official bottlings, the out-standing (literally) casks end up with the indies but they're still a valid part of the distillery profile as a whole.

Also remember that apart from the Feis Isle release last year, Coal Ila has never released single casks or limited batches. Limited batches are more likely to express an uncommon profile because extreme casks have more to say in the overall mix.

21 March 2010 10:38

olivier wrote:

OK. Can I try to summarize, for my education. If I understand you correctly, I did not imagine the marked difference between the 12yo and 18yo official bottlings of Caol Ila and the Port Askaig 17yo. But, had I had more experience I would not have been surprised at this difference, since "In many cases, the official distillery profile is quite different from what you can find in independent releases". Is that correct?

21 March 2010 14:52

WhiskyNotes wrote:

Indeed, differences are normal, and as soon as you are turning to independent releases, the likeliness of going further away from the distillery profile is higher. Still, I don't think the difference between CI 12/18 or this Port Askaig is so big it would make you think it's not Caol Ila.

I was surprised to see your review because you had just said it would take a few weeks before you could really evaluate it (like Lagavulin DE if I remember correctly). I'm looking forward to your opinion in a few weeks ;-)

21 March 2010 17:09

PeatAndMeat wrote:

Calm is restored :)

21 March 2010 21:35

olivier wrote:

@WhiskyNotes: Yes, I was planning to wait awhile (and maybe I should have). But then a friend who also really enjoys the Caol Ila 12yo tasted the Port Askaig 17yo and had the exact same reaction as I did. As I had mistakenly assumed that as I liked the Caol Ila 12yo, I would automatically like the Port Askaig 17yo, I wanted help other neophytes by making them aware of my mistake. The road to hell is paved with good intentions ;-)

Anyways, I will try it again in a couple of weeks and add a comment to this thread if it feels markedly different.

22 March 2010 05:28

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