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Caol Ila is one of those distilleries that I wish had a broader lineup. I love the 12, and I wish I could explore the brand more. Diageo’s Islay whiskies tend to be pretty conservative about how much they release. With the 18 getting harder and harder to find, unless you’re getting a Distiller’s Edition or paying big bucks for an older bottling, you’re pretty much out of luck for exploring Caol Ila. Oh, well. Here’s the 12…
Nose: Coastal and light. Black olives, bright, intense honey, seaweed, ocean air, sea salt, licorice, herbs, malt, and gentle peat. I find the honeyed sweetness here particularly inviting.
Palate: Light mouthfeel, with a paced and polite arrival. The lovely golden honey note stands out. Oysters, sea salt, olives, honey, peat, and seaweed.
Finish: The texture gets more oily as it slides down the tongue. Salt, caramel, golden honey, black olives, herbs, and seaweed.
Thoughts: Beautiful structure. The olive, honey, and peat flavours are in perfect balance, and form the foundation of the whisky. This is famously dubbed a “maritime” flavour profile, and it is. But instead of taking me to the north Atlantic, I’m taken to Greece, or Italy perhaps. Beyond the olives and herbs, there’s a nice balance between salty, sweet, and savory that reminds me of good Mediterranean seafood. But all that romance aside, this is tasty stuff. Yes, the abv is low and the whisky is light, but Islay produces plenty of whiskies that lob peat grenades into your mouth. It’s nice to have something light and polite once in a while, particularly when it tastes this good.