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Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Average score from 51 reviews and 242 ratings 86

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Product details

  • Brand: Caol Ila
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 43.0%
  • Age: 12 year old

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Caol Ila 12 Year Old

My second bottle of this 12 year old OB and whilst I didn't rate that last bottle here, I enjoyed it immensely and would have rated it high 80s ( I think I drank it, with the help of my Mum, in under a month). I picked this up recently and thought it would make a good peated whisky for the summer months. Review is neat.

Nose - Herbal, slightly ashy, coastal and medicinal peat, bitter sour lemons, white grape and a faint leathery note. The herbal note has been getting my full attention as I couldn't quite put it down then 'boom', celery! It's a great nose, it really is.

Taste - Quite dry and herbal overall. Bitter sour arrival then turns sweeter with the lemons standing proud. Then the peat follows giving a slight liquorice and TCP note. Again, the flavour is great and it's so easy to quaff, especially for a well-peated whisky. The only quibble is the mouthfeel which is decidedly thin.

Finish - Medium. More grape, ash and liquorice, with some tannins and black tea.

This is possibly the easiest drinking peated whisky I've had. I love the house style of Caol Ila and find this style of dry, herbal and medicinal peat really works for me. The mouthfeel does hinder the overall satisfaction a tad but given how easy and light this is I don't feel it's a huge negative. It may also be worth noting that after an hour or so in the glass it does start to break down a little - becoming overly sour and one-dimensional. In short, best not to hang about . . . Possibly the perfect way to introduce someone to the southern Islay style?

Right on the money @RianC. Should be a staple in every respectable cabinet.


I’ve had this bottle for a couple years, and had not had any for quite some time, so I decided to go back and give it another try.

I had it neat, and it pours a light golden straw color. The pour is thin, with no ring left around the glass.

On the nose, you immediately get brine and peat, along with a bit of caramel and tea.

The initial taste has a surprising strong alcohol burn. I was actually shocked by it. Then you pick up the smokiness and peat, with an interesting sweetness that I did not recall. There are also some licorice and tea flavors, but they are muted.

The aftertaste immediately leaves a bit of bittnerness in your mouth, but after a few minutes there is a lingering taste of meat and some leather.

I have some mixed feelings on this one. While good, there are some off-putting notes (the immediate bitterness and the alcohol burn), but for a smoky Islay, it serves its purpose. This is a whisky I will be going back to, if only to be able to better describe it.

Thanks for the review. Interesting that you compare it to Laphroaig. I’ve always found Caol Ila to be more of a toned-down Talisker, but that’s just me. Both have a pepperiness, and a vegetal note I find quite pleasant. I think you and I scored this one similarly. I think I’ve scored it 84-86, depending on the batch. Now Caol Ila 17 YO Unpeated Cask Strength? That’s a whole ‘nother story. That’s fantastic stuff!

@OdysseusUnbound I haven’t had that one. I find both Talisker and Lagavulin to be more “elegant” than Laphroaig or Ardbeg, which are a punch in the face as far as Islays are concerned. The various expressions of Talisker and Lagavulin are nicely rounded without the toughness of the other Islays. Caol Ila to me doesn’t have that soft edge, which is why I compared it to Laphroaig.


Caol Ila is the big work horse of Islay that produces peated whisky for Diageo's blends, of which Johnnie Walker Black Label is the best known one. But it stands on its own as a single malt without any problems. There is a reason why Coal Ila is my favorite Islay whisky. This 12 Year Old is the entry level malt that can be had for as little as 35 EUR. I try a recent bottling, from February 2016. The nose is soft and sweet on caramel, apple and lime. Loads of dried grass and a touch of fish oil. Then something that reminds me of green olives, but with a medicinal twist. The smoke is rather mild. If you leave it for a length of time, it will turn a touch sour. It is wonderfully oily and very spicy from the start. The first sip offers peat and maritime elements, the second leaves a bit of room for the citrus. A soft peppery note and some wood counterfoot this. It is nicely balanced. The long finish keeps the mouth warm. At the death you get another salty uppercut that floors the sweetness. For that price, this Caol Ila should be in your cabinet. Wonderful winter dram. Thanks for the sample, Pat!

I couldn't agree more, Mark. It's a nice, uncomplicated easy drinking Islay and always my fallback dram when I can't make a decision. I would probably tweek the rating up to something between 85 and 88. Nice review, thanks.

I served this as part of Burns Night tasting I led for Waitrose. I was limited to whiskies they stocked and chose this even though I hadn't tasted it for years. What a wonderful whisky! It went down very well with the guests, some of whom claimed not like peated whisky. They liked this one and so did I!!! Well worth revisiting.


Nose: a delicate perfume of vanilla and lemon essence at first, followed by brine and smoke notes. Impressive balance and lightness.

Taste: medium-bodied, with the initial sweetness soon met by a wave of salty smokiness. The salty maritime character takes some getting used to. Then the peat coats the back of the tongue.

Finish: Peaty, but not overpowering. The salty note lingers.

Balance: a solid Islay malt which finds a good balance between sweetness and peat smoke. For me, not an everyday malt but still a great choice.

Thanks for the review. I can only agree about the balance between smoke and sweet. What a great whisky!

do u know if the caol ila standard releases (12, 18..) are chill filtered and/or artificially colored?


Boy, is this whisky charismatic! There're some complex whiskies which are sophisticated, refined, really nicely matured, but they still lack a little something. It's like a person with a whole list of achievements, lots of diplomas, awards, but with no charm or character. They can potentially offer you a lot of stuff, however, they lack certain likeability which is really indescribable. Other people may not have all of the accolades, but there's something about them which makes you feel attracted to them for no obvious reasons. This is how I feel about this standard Caol Ila 12.

NOSE: it doesn't keep you waiting. Smoked paprika, burned oak, creamy, fresh fruits, vanilla and a touch of mint. Smoke and peat are in harmony with the fruit component, they don't dominate here, though. As it sits you also get notes of pickles, peaches, pears as well as medicinal notes and bonfire smoke. After about 15 minutes overripe bananas come to the forefront along with herbal, shoe polish, mothballs and brown sugar. Really, really satisfying! 23/25

TASTE: oily, slightly oaky with mineral damp earth, fruit and peppery dried herbs. A touch of peat and ash. The more it sits, the less dry it becomes, allowing fruit which is slightly astringent to reveal itself on the palate. 21/25

FINISH: slightly ashy, cigar ash, herbal, drying with big iodine component which lingers on. 21/25

BALANCE: 23/25

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I think it's a very delicious whisky which is now one of my absolute favorites.

The only CS I have seen in Ontario is 17 YO unpeated, and I have to say it's pretty impressive, but the only reason I got it was because I traded in a bottle someone brought for me by accident that was worth a lot more than I would ever pay for a bottle...

I have had the official NAS 58% bottling and it was fantastic. I tried a few good OBs at Spirit of Toronto as well.

I tried to get a 13 YO G&M CS but as I mentioned above, I bought it but my friend brouht home the wrong bottle from Halifax.

@Nozinan , are you talking about a CS OB? You get those up in Canada, right?

Down here in the US, at least, I think the only CS OBs we ever get are the unpeated annual things.

The great thing about Caol Ila, though, is that IBs put out plenty of their stuff, often at CS. If things stay the way they are now, it's very likely that I'll keep buying Caol Ilas over the years, but very unlikely that any of them will be officials.


Nose: maritime, fireplace, smoked fish and lemon. Palate: roast, lemon and brine. Finish: Medium long, peaty and slightly salty. Very satisfying.


The whisky I'm reviewing is from a 20cl bottle recently bought. If I could sum up this up in one word that word would be oily.I've never really understood the concept of an oily mouth feel but after drinking this now I do. On the nose I first got a sort of briney peatiness swiftly followed by toffee,caramel and a slight herbal note. On the palate I got a sweet, creamy,briney peaty taste infused with lemon curd (a british preserve),lemon peel and sherbet lemons(candy) all wrapped up in a good olive oil. Very pleasant if a bit one dimensional. The finish is very long indeed. Quite gentle peat with white pepper with coastal notes still lingering. This is not a peat monster like Laphroaig 10 ,the praying levels are more muted,like a Talisker. It is nevertheless mostly enjoyable if not overly complex. It would be an excellent introduction to Islay malt whiskies.

I find this to be a very enjoyable whisky, one of the few bottled at 43% that I would drink over a diet soda (unless I was just thirsty, then I'd have the soda).

But if you want this amped up a notch, see if you can get your hands on a bottle of the natural cask strength release (the one bottled at 58%, I believe). In my opinion this is an explosion of flavour in a dram.

I know OIJas praying levels indeed!It was a predictive text and clumsy finger combo that embarrassed me. It wouldn't be a post without a screwup.I've just opened a bottle of Maker's Mark to console myself and suddenly things don't seem so bad.


This would be the perfect Introduction to Islay.

Nose: Peat. Fresh sawed wood, medicinal rubber, ash, brine. Yes, the most talked about citrus sweetness: I got mostly a more sour lime. Slight mushroom note. After 10 minutes the sweetness becomes very well integrated, and you get a more calmer peat and salt. The fruit changes as well, turning into a honeyed apple sweetness, just like a peaty livet/fiddich.

Palate: In a strange way this seems light but oily at the same time. Advances sweet then spicy and bitter. Just as with the nose, It gets more sweeter with time. Vanilla, the citrus is now sweeter then on the nose, more like lemons.

Finish: Smoke, ash, coffee and caramel, then the peat and salt starts competing. It's a long race, a good race and the salt wins.

Caol Ila worked really well for presenting a very clear and untouched peat note, especially when freshly poured, and it keeps it's place decently in all stages. While being highly enjoyable and very similar to Talisker, the latter just shows a more stronger maritime and overall character.


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.

I'd love to walk into a shop and find some Port Askaig sitting on the shelf.

About Caol Ila in general: My previous comments are sort of veiled criticisms of the 12 YO OB, but I do think it sits in a decent place among its Islay brethren. Peaty but milder than the big boys, and fresh. The price should be lower for that less intense experience, though. I often see Caol Ila 12 in the $60 neighborhood, which is poor value in my book. I last bought one in 2013 for $38, which was both (a) a steal by typical price standards; and (b) about right for what you get, I think.

I really like the bottle & label design, too. Simple and classy. I think the old Talisker labels were more like this, which I think was better than the current busy label. I selected that last Caol Ila bottle of mine to be a temporary blend bottle because it the classiest of the bottles I was dumping together.

Not sure where you're at. But you may want to try Port Askaig. I don't think this is available in the US. I think their range has a 12, 17, 19, 25 and I think a limited release 30 year. Word on the Internet, is, that it is Caol Ila. I tried the 17 year once, it was very good.


My First review, I hope to write more as I find whiskeys that strike me as an experience worth trying to describe. I’ve enjoyed reading peoples reviews so far and they have helped be learn about what’s on the shelf at the liquor store. Also, the reviews have shown me how everyone’s perspective is different. I’m a relative new comer to Scotch, but I look forward to tasting much! Caol Ila 12yr: Nose: Granny smith apple, Bosc Pear, Medicinal, Cinnamon, Honey. Overripe fruit Basket. Spearmint Gum. Body: Oily at first, gets watery as my saliva kicks in. Looks watery as I swish it around in the glencarin glass. Light yellow in hue. Palate: Nice mild spice burn as it goes down, like good Asian cinnamon. Baked apples coming on with the cinnamon now. Apple pie, wonderful! Then a sharp note of campfire smoke that fades off quickly and is replaced by a orange pith flavored medicinal burn. The mild spiciness is clinging on as the apple pie flavor returns. Subtle sweetness and burn that makes the tip of my tongue dance, searching. The alcohol here doesn’t dominate and compliments the other flavors nicely. Smooth. I enjoyed this neat without adding water. Finish: Leaves on a burning sweet note like spicy cinnamon sugar that turns saccharin . A long finish that gives way to muted smoke and bitter medicinal flavors as the sweetness slowly fades. The smokiness for me makes an appearance earlier, but checks out before the finish. Spearmint was also detectable. This is a very smooth, balanced, and lighter whiskey that I enjoyed straight out of the bottle after opening. It needed no time to decant or mellow out after opening. I liked trying to find the smoke after I tasted it, knowing from other reviews that it was going to be smoky. The smoke though seems to get lost in the all other good flavors going on. Caol Ila 12yr has none of the petro flavors I can detect in a Ardbeg. A fairly simple Islay whiskey to contemplate with a subtle sweetness that holds everything together. Delicious!


The peat is light for an Islay and is accompanied by a very distinctive oily mouth feel, although this malt is not as oily as the 18 year old. Nose: Pine, smoke and peat. A hint of cocoa
Taste: Oily mouth feel, peaty smoky with a little pepper and apples. Finish: Long peaty cooling somehow.

Islay's best kept secret and its best bang for the buck. Affordable and always reliable. Thanks for the review.


I love trying different weird and wonderful malts. Indie bottles with mad cask finishes from obscure distilleries you've never heard of are all part of the fun of single malt enjoyment. Sometimes however, it's good to return to basics and appreciate your origins.

I love all Islay distilleries but I think Caol Ila was the one I was last to sample from the island, (barring Kilchoman that is) - mainly due to it being generally unavailable in UK supermarkets when I was a whisky novice.

Nose is grass and caramel with layers of peat covering it. Peaty yet lacks the iodine and smokiness of Islay's deep south trio. Becomes a bit sweeter after further nosings with lemon creeping in there. Fresh with sweet-peat and a medium-light style.

On the palate I get a peaty-orange flavour. Even slightly floral with the tiniest lavender hint, (!?). And then it sweetens with the lemon returning. But it remains fresh and uplifting.

Lingering finish of citrus that gives was to a charcoal coating on the tongue.

Really good for the price. I tried the unpeated 14yo expression earlier this year which cost more than twice as much as the standard 12yo, yet was only half as good. You can't get much better in this price range.

I've probably tried more Independent bottlings of Caol Ila than any other distillery. The 16 & 17yo releases from Signatory's Unchill-filtered range are invariably decent quality, (quite readily available in the UK, but don't know what their availability is like in the US). I've also tried a quite excellent 1983/28YO from Berry Brothers.

Most disappointing was a 1997 Connoisseur's Choice range one which I won't be revisiting. Far better from G&M was this:


Nemisis: have you tried some of the caol ila independent bottlings? I'm quite intrigued by some of these.


Nose: Smoke, Iodine, ocean air,

Palate: Spice, gentle smoke. Water releases a little sweetness. More subtle than some of the more peaty offerings I've tried.

I love this. It reminds me of an autumn campfire in the woods in the best way possible.


It's a while since I had the Caol Ila cask strength. This is the standard 12 yo. I hope it's in the same ball park

Nose is minty, fresh, herby, smoky, salty, iodine and sharp green apples.

This is pale gold, slightly oily, and you get a big smokey blast and salted caramel, with a long peppery finish.

It's really drinkable and fans of Laphroaig and a Lagavulin will feel right at home.

It's a little thin on the palate, but good (not overwhelmingly bitter) smoke and some good underlying flavour.

Can't wait to give this one a go later this month. It's been known as a cheaper alternative to the heavy and flavorful Laga 16, yet has its own unique profile. Sound promising. Yum.


Bought and opened this bottle on 8/31/2011. It has been at less then half full (with no gas) for well over two years. This tasting was done June 12th of 2013 along side Talisker 10yo and Johnnie Walker Green 15yo to see what of Coal Ila and Talisker I could find in the JW Green.

Nose: Nice sweet peat. Similar tone to the JW Green but unadulterated. Peat straw; hay. This is a light peat. Wow, I am getting a little of that Ardbeg diesel thing happening. There is a nice depth here. Either the nose has grown being open this long or I really appreciate it given the present company. I really like the spice and light pepper notes. The diesel earthy peat is very present. Favorite nose of the night . . . very strange. Usually this guy leaves me wanting . . .

Taste: Nice semi-sweet peat arrival. There is hay, mint, wood, and peat. Very oily mouth feel. It almost is like a white wine. Very smooth mouth feel. Like velvet and rounded peat. Only the smallest hint of bitterness.

Finish: Full-bodied peat and earth. Oh ya, this is Islay! Leaves a charred mouth feel. The peat sucks all tastes away. Slightly woody and smoky. Very nice.

Complexity, Balance: Not the most balanced or the most complex of the night. I liked it, but only because it was the most unchecked. It seems younger then the Talisker 10yo which is odd.

Aesthetic experience: Love the Diageo bottle shape. The very simple label (no bells or whistles here). This is a simple straightforward bottle like the malt inside. If it weren’t for the big three of Islay’s south shore this would be a great peaty malt . . .

Conclusion: This is decent for what it is. It does seem like this could age for a while yet. I have given it a ton of air for over two years now. And it seems to have rounded off a bit. I would still buy Laphroaig 10yo every time before I buy this again. However, it is a very nice reference malt to keep around. I will pick it up again when this bottle is gone – if I can find it at the right price (read: under $50 not $75 like I have seen in some shops).

I don't know how you can keep a bottle of this so long! I find I regularly have to pour a dram, as I really enjoy its maritime flavor, so it maybe lasts a few months. A sip always reminds me of trips to the beach.

If I could find this regularly for $45 (which is what I paid for this bottle) it would certainly be a mainstay in my cabinet. But I can't! That was a fluke whisky shop I just happened upon during a road trip. Everywhere else I see this bottle it is around $75. HECK no! I can buy Ardbeg 10yo for under $50, the Uigeadail for $60 and the Corry for $72! All of which score much, much higher in my book. This is the craziness of liquor controlled states.


There is no rhyme or reason why I should like this one according to my taste preferences, but I do. It is similar to things in life such as Vietnamese fish sauce, whereby once you get past the smell, you find yourself craving it. Maybe it's like a volatile relationship whereby the couple can't live with each other, nor live without each other.

At any rate, I tasted this one at the bar and bought a bottle the next day. I also did the same thing for Ardbeg 10 a few days later, but when compared side by side, this one has more flavor and body. These are the only two Peat Monsters that I found their way into my collection, as I found Laphroaig 10, Lagavullin 16, and Talisker 10 to be not to my liking at all.


Color: straw.

Nose: sweet and juicy pit-smoked barbecue, olive oil and herbs, pine needles, and just an edge of antiseptic harshness.

Body: light and oily.

Palate: sweet, smoky, meaty, and woody. Honey roasted peanuts and peppered jerky. This reminds me a lot of the Lagavulin 16, if a little less balanced and distinct. Not quite as smooth or refined.

Finish: a smoky, licorice finish of medium length.

I love this Islay! Can it compete with the Lagavulin 16 or Ardbeg Uigeadail? No, but at $15-40 cheaper than those bottles, it doesn't need to. I got this for $53 at Total Wine, and it was worth every penny. Very similar profile to the Lagavulin 16, just a little harsher and less subtle. If you love the Laga but live on a budget, pick this up. A true delight.

I think you hit the nail on the head; 'Lagavulin lite'.

For those wanting to try a smokey/peaty Islay single malt - the Caol Ila 12 yr is a good place to start.


Caol Ila 12 was the first bottle of Islay whisky I purchased for my home cabinet. I was attracted by the rumors of exquisite "balance" between sweetness and smoke, and I was not at all disappointed.

I get an immediate sweetness in the nose of soft fruits, honeydew melons. Peat comes along with a minty edge

The palate follows along appropriately, with a rock-candy sweetness and a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel; the sweetness gives way to fresh-baked bread and toasted nuts.

Gentle smoke dominates the finish and is ultimately carried away by that wonderful Islay sea breeze.

My scores should all be understood within the context of my budget. It's extremely rare that I spend upwards of $75 for a single bottle, which means Caol Ila 12 is about the most expensive whisky I can afford on a semi-regular basis. Most 18 year-old whiskys are outside my reach, except for the occasional dram at a bar with a decent selection. And I tend not to review whiskys unless I've had the opportunity to spend some quality time with them (i.e. have a bottle in my cabinet).

This whisky receives a high score from me because I can't imagine a much better whisky for the money. And since that's all the money I have, well then, a very high score is certainly deserved.

I've got a long way to go before I've tried every single malt on the market, but I've sampled a lot of them thus far, and Caol Ila is probably at the top of my list. I could've justified giving it a solid 100, to be honest. I perceive whisky scores in much the same way I perceive scores for music albums or books. If Rolling Stone can give the new Bruce Springsteen album 5 stars, then surely I can give Caol Ila 12 it's numerical equivalent on connosr.

Relax, gentlemen. Life's too short to be stingy with our whisky ratings.

About score, I did open a Caol Ila 12 year 20cl today. I guess it is the same. For me this is an all time high too, ahead of Auchentoshan Three Wood and the Balvenie Doublewood and about 20 other that I have tasted. I think the softness/sweetness is absolutely perfect. It is so well balanced that perfect is my conclusion too. I an not sure if more aging can make it better. It may or may not. Later I hope to try the very high rated ones that can have something extra and degrade this from perfect to perfect, but there are better ones around. I agree yhat 97 is so high that it is difficult to find higher places on the scale for suoerextremely nice whisky.


As I sit here, the rain outside my home is pounding.

Pounding the roof, pounding the windows, just banging like a banished child that wants to be let in to their home.

It seems like whenever it rains like this, my mind turns to Islay. That region just seems to produce whiskeys that truly take me to their environment. It makes me crave a salty ocean, sea spray, and the rugged nature of the terroir of the land it comes from. Tonight is one of those nights. I want to hunker down like a cask dangling over the precipice of the ocean, quietly waiting and listening, with the waves of Islay pounding my senses.

Rather than plunge face first into a peat bog (which I sometimes crave) this evening I want something that takes me there, but doesn’t fully abuse me. I want to go gentle into this good night. Therefore, I reach for the Caol Ila 12. It can quench my peat desires, but still stay light and balanced enough to entertain other areas of my tongue and palate.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Light straw and Medium bodied

Nose: Ocean, Grass, Peat, just lovely

Palate: Oily yet sweet, the smoke blends in with everything seamlessly…shockingly fruity despite the seaweed & brine-like peat flavors that ebb and flow throughout

Finish: Clean smoke (not too ashy), sweetness


What a great way to ease someone into the Islay region. This has a ‘clean smoke’ in it, as opposed to some of the stronger and denser peat-smokes that come from the Ardbegs of the world. This is one of those drams that takes me to a few different places. Of course, it achieves what I believe should be the goal of most whiskeys, which is to take the imbiber to the distillery/region of origin via the senses. It certainly achieves that by giving me a sample of Islay. However, this one goes a step further and fully takes me to something specific that I get to enjoy by living in New Jersey: a seashore campfire. That sea spray and smoke just combine to be a lovely night on the shore…with pounding rain of course.

This sure isn't a stormy islay for once, closer to lagavulin than laphroaig or ardbeg, but individual still, with a bit of a white wine complexity to it as well. A mellow rainy coastline whisky, couldn't have put it better than you did here! A poster-review for the Caol ila 12!

Excellent review. You've brought back loads of nostalgic memories of my trip round Islay a couple of years back - both of the whisky and the amazing island itself.

And I've always thought Caol Ila to be one of the most underrated distilleries, too often in the shadow of its southerly neighbours.


Coal Ila 12. Here we go...

Nose: Salted Lemons, Salted Lime, Peat, Smoke, Olive Oil, Green Apple, Smoke Bacon

Palate: Peat, Vanilla, Oily, Lime, Black Pepper Spice, Apple, Charcoal Smoke

Finish: Medium-Long. The Black Pepper sticks around. Lime tang. Sweet Peas. Vanilla. Peat. Rubber.

Highly recommended. Definitely one of my favorite Islays along with Lagavulin 12 and 16. Love the bottle too. Don't overlook this one.


Color: green/gold. No caramel here I guess, but seems to be chill filtered since nothing cloudy happens when I drop some water in it. Unlike the CI cask strength.

Nose: Without water a little rough, but sweet oak n smoke come through right away. With 3 drops of water comes more smoke, fresh oak and a nice soft peat, seafoam, grassy lemon and vegetables. How your clothes smell after a BBQ.

Arrival: delicate mouthfeel, coming in slowly and getting more intense with a nice burn, American oak, herbs apples and lime

Developement: It evolves some hot creamy peat, nice ash and even some smoked bacon marinated in iodine haha. Lovely dry barley is present all the way down. Oh and salty seagrass.

Finish: More ash, meaty barley, smoke and a bit creamy still, Peaty Iodine returns later and leaves its taste for quite a minutes to come.

Conclusion: Grrrreat stuff! I think this is my favorite 'entry' Islay style* whisky. I even prefer it over Ardbeg 10 because I think its a little more delicate and less screamy. It has some nice dreamy complexity and it is quite balanced in the sense that the whole nose-finish sequence is consistently good and I never get bored of it. Good in the summer and winter and the price is right!

*=(Laphroaig 10, Ardbeg 10, Bunna 12, Talisker 10, Bruichladdich An Turas Mor, )

This is a wonderful review. I'm a relative newbie (less than a year), but when I see terms like "liquid smoke" come up in the context of CI 12, I wonder what that person has been tasting. I'm not sure what it is about Caol Ila, but it is distinct from other Islays (and without exotic finishes). I know that that CI uses the same peated barley as Lagavulin 12 (from Port Ellen), and if I hadn't finished my bottle of CI 12 last night, I would be able to compare. In any case, "delicate" is the word that I would also have used.

I am a noobie, but one who really jumps into things/

@PeatyZealot - Every drinker has a different nose and palate, but yours may be the first whisky review I've read with which I agree 100%, point-for-point. I've always thought Caol Ila was the perfect introduction to peated whisky. And, yup, it still tastes great after you get used to the stronger peat monsters.

Very nice review -- even if I didn't agree with it so much!


This is a beautiful whisky! The intensity is similar to some other Islay scotches, like Laphroaig or Ardbeg, but this one hits you with a hugely smoky taste, rather than that of peat or medicine. I had my cousin try a bit, as one of her first scotches, and her verdict was "this tastes like a fire!" I couldn't have said it better. It works nicely with a couple drops of water, but the smokiness is really best when neat.


Caol Ila 12 year old was a fine addition to my Islay memory treasure. Like Snatch in Guy Ritchie's CV, Caol Ila's 12 yrs isn't the best ones that Islay has to offer. But it is enjoyable and very close on the edge of greatness.

Actually that's the only thing in common with these two. Snatch was still a damn violent and accelerating movie but Caol Ila 12 offers the subtle and sweeter side of Islay.

Nose: Smoked ham comes across delicately with citrus and cigar leaves. Fresh and smoky, probably the best part of this whisky.

Taste: With an almost full body, oil and tar meet subtle smoke. Hints of sweet tastes like honey.

Finish: Finish is quite long, lacks a little bit of smoke but it is still smoky. Some spices like pepper combined with little sweetness.

Balance: Not the best ones of Islay but still a good one. Smooth and delicately smoky whisky, great for smoky beginners.

This bottle blends especially well with other whiskies. I like to start blending when it gets down to about one quarter full. Blends well with Talisker or with Highland Park 12. I watched the last superbowl with a few glasses of the HP12/CI single malt blend. It was quite delicious after having steeped together in a smaller bottle together for a while before drinking.

After reading this, I put the 2 ( Talisker 10, Caol Ila 12) together, but it didn't turn out well for me. They seem to flatten eachother out in stead of being enriching as I was hoping for. Better apart than together!


The Caol Ila distillery is located on Islay, near Port Askaig, overlooking the strait between Islay and Jura, and was founded in 1846. Its name derives from the Gaelic for 'Sound of Islay'. The distillery belongs to Diageo, and in addition to being sold as a single malt is used heavily in blends such as Johnnie Walker and Black Bottle.

The nose starts with a punch of brine and salt, followed by wet grass and a malty sweetness. At the end the smoke pushes through, together with some tar. A lovely nose, and very well balanced, too!

The palate is medium-bodied, oily, and very peppery. Again brine and salt both play a big role here.

The finish is long, warming, and dry. Pepper and brine last until the very end. Mouth watering!

I very much like this standard Caol Ila. It is a little bit on the wild side, very briny and salty, but all the same well balanced. This goes very well with food or simply as a refresher during long walks in the afternoon.


As far as Islay whiskys go i think too much talk is given to Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, the big three. While they do make good whisky its good to get a change and experience something different. The Caol Ila 12 is an entry level malt, i believe it was one of Diageo's classic malts for a time before being replaced by Lagavulin. This is good stuff and well worth a try

  • Nose: Peaty, very Laphroaig like phenol, barbeque smoke, earthy, black pepper and a kind of motor oil/diesel sort of note. With water sulphur note comes through.

  • Pallet: starts sweet, really nice fruitiness there before a big hit of green olives, from there light peat smoke and earthy phenolics, sweetness pops through again at the back. With water seaweed, and a big herbal note coming through, bit more complexity

  • Finish: lasts well, really good length, fruit and peat combine really nicely, bit of tingle on the back of the pallet and throat. With water very similar but slightly more restrained.

  • Mark – neat 8.4, with water 8.4

Really enjoyable and available for less than 100AUD its great value. Good for beginners as the pallet isn't too harsh but it has intrinsic complexity that will interest the more experienced drinker

Well written review. I've had this one on my wish list for a long time but everytime I get to the local Commission I end up picking up a different bottle. I will make it a point to get this one next time I need to pick up a bottle. Thanks for reminding me.

The Highland Stillhouse in Oregon has the following Caol Ila's to try, in addition to the 12: Caol Ila 18 16.50, Caol Ila 25 35.75, Caol Ila GM 1998 Portwood 17.75, Caol Ila 27 36.50.

Think I will try the 18 next time I'm there. The 12 is quite good, so I'm excited to finagle a glass of the 18, and perhaps the GM 1998 Portwood.

As for buying a bottle of either of these if I like them, I'm not crossing my fingers. I've only seen the 12 on sale in Oregon.


Nose: Wow! I feel naughty... hints of cigarette smoke!! Peat and smoke common among the Islay malts. Subtle hints of the sea, but light and fresh. Rain at the beach!

Colour: A light yellow.

Taste: Gentle peat and smoke building up to a powerful warmth. Cinnamon immediately comes to mind, spice.

Finish: Good. It lasts a while and slowly reduces eventually disappearing within a minute or so.

Overall: Very enjoyable, but lacking in the complexity of I have come to expect blended malts malts like the Johnnie Walker Green Label and the depth I have experienced with single malts like the Clynelish 14.

Wow, Cappy, you really do like the Clynelish 14! Now you've got me curious . . . The liquor store down the street has a bottle that is calling my name due to your keen appreciation. Thank you for the tip!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Invited a friend over with her longtime boyfriend a few weeks ago. She's a huge proponent of Isla whiskies. She's been on the tour over in Scotland a few times and maintains a collection of some very rare Ardbegs in her house, along with a few other Islas, in addition to some very good bottles of highlands, and other regions. She absolutely loves Ireland, but prefers Isla Single Malts when it comes to whiskey.

My friend happens to live with a backyard that opens out onto a lovely stretch of woods and fields with a creek meandering through one side. Two summers ago, as we were sipping whisky at her house, she narrated the history about how some dreadful serial killer in Beaverton buried his victims out there for decades, until the police finally caught him and he confessed in the 70's or 80's. So these days, every once in a while, whenever I venture over to her house to hang out, the tale she once told, almost in a tone of reverence) haunts me just a little. I don't really like that sort of "legendary" macabre that is so popular in the underlying sociopathy (and, yes, perhaps even a "programming" agenda) in quite a few Hollywood films these days. I think, to be perfectly honest, my friend's gung-ho nostalgia for such a dark and grisly chapter in history of her neighborhood haunts me more than the tale itself.

Anyhow, I finally returned the favor and had her over to my place, which is located in a part of Portland that was once known as "felony flats, but thank god, no grisly historical murders occurred near my house, at least not that I know of.

Despite my friend's virtuosity with Islas, she had never tasted Caol Ila, although she did know the meaning of the title (sound by the island, as in "body of water").

I brought out my bottle of 12 year, and she just loved it for what it ws (a very reasonably priced 12 year). She sampled some of my other bottles, but went back to the Caol Ila.

She was kind enough to bring over a small shot bottle filled with Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and I compared it with the Caol Ila. In my opinion, the Caol Ila came out on top. I know many people would disagree with me, but its quiet sophistication seemed to upstage the fireworks of the Laphroaig, especially the solvent astringent overtones that amp up the peppery liveliness a bit much for me.


Nose: Clover and fresh dried hay ready to be bailed; light but well articulated smokey goodness; briny hints of the northern sea with well oxygenated water and rich seaweedy nutrients wafting up through the mist. This accompanied by burning hardwood from a chimney in winter time.

Body: Generous mouth feel followed by delightful tingle in the nose that is not hot or astringent; very organic medley of flavors--no chemical overtones like the Laphroaig; realization that a significant amount of Johnny Walker Black and Green's magic is borne of this distillery;

Palate: Effervescent smoke; vanilla beans; hints of citrus, kind of a cross between pineapple and lime; gentle smoking peat that never feels too forced due to an expert's time-worn touch and tradition; glowing hints of cherry mellowed by a Grape Nutty goodness that eventually nudges some more flavors to the front of the tongue, but never rushes the experience like Laphroaig 12 or QC does (at least for me).

Finish: Smoke sustains through flashes of vanilla and bursts of salty mellow dried peppers. This said, the finish is not too long. It fades evenly but does not last terribly long, at least in the 12 year. Still, the mouth and tongue feels awakened and ready for another taste.

Rating: As always, my rating does take price into consideration. I paid $50 for my bottle--what a bargain! If I had paid $75 for the bottle, then I might not have rated it as highly. Is that wrong? Not in my book. There it is. I'm not a complete purist when it comes to my pocket book.

Blend: If you already have a bottle of Talisker in your collection, try different mixes with the Caol Ila. And if you don't, then shame on you! Every collection should have a bottle of Talisker. It's delicious, and also a very good bargain for the money.

Experimentation is key when blending these two stalwart buddies: Start out with more Talisker and then the next time try more Caol Ila in the blend. Then try 50/50. It's very fun to play around with mixing these two. Also, Caol Ila can mix well with other scotches. When it mixes well, you will know it. But beware: it certainly is picky about the company it keeps in a glass. I have tried mixing Arran Sherry Single Cask 12 with some success, so long as the Caol Ila is at least 60% of the blend.

Side effects: None, other than a delightful halo around your head! Or perhaps a stubby little pair of antlers still ensconced in velvet.

No nasty smokey burps or heartburn whatsoever. No back of the throat burn, or very slight constriction that can accompany higher alcohol percentages.

And this is the way my review ends, not with a bang but a whimper.


My wife purchased an extremely awesome Christmas present for me this year. A calender. A very special calender.

A calender made of whiskies!

Entry level whiskies, old whiskies, cask strength whiskies, whiskies from around the world.


I'd tasted a few of them before, some I'd reviewed before, but now I was finally moving into new whisky territory.

Caol Ila 12 year old!

I'd been lucky enough to try a single cask offering from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society that was awesome, but was very keen to try the entry level as I'd heard nothing, but good things about it.

That and I'm a big Islay fan, loving every single distillery that I'd tried from Islay, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Caol Ila.

Very very pale whisky in it's little sample bottle.

Pour it into it's glencairn.

And now a nose.

A grin crosses my face. God it smells good.

Smoke, but it's a sweet smoke, hints of toffee, peat, fruit, some citrus, but I swear I'm getting a wee bit of red fruits, raspberries maybe. Hints of brine (yes yes I know that Caol Ila isn't actually aged near the sea, but that's still what I pick up!)

Underneath that there is the faintest phenolic aroma, something slightly medicinal, but much less then say Ardbeg.

Time for a taste!

Sweet smoke, peat and then quite a bit of salt. It's an interesting play between smoke, sweet and salty.

It's not bad, but definitely not the most exciting Islay I've ever tried, mind you as an entry level single malt, they don't tend to be the most interesting, but Ardbeg and Laphroaig were quite a bit more complex, or at least I remember them being quite a bit more complex.

A decent peaty finish with salty charcoal finishes the whisky.

Interesting. And definitely a whisky that I enjoyed, I think I prefer Ardbeg 10 yr old over this, but it's still a nice change of pace and an interesting variation on the typical Islay whisky.

I haven't found this bottle in any of the local bottle shops, but I'm guessing that a bottle would normally run around $90 or so, which isn't a bad price for the whisky that you're getting and definitely not a bad price for what I would almost term entry level Islay single malt.

If you haven't tried this distillery yet, it's definitely not a distillery you should pass up!


When watching a Bowmore review recently I asked Ralfy to recommend an Islay whisky for a Scotch neophyte, He said to "look up Caol Ila 12". I found 2 bottles 30 miles away and purchased one today. I am very pleased that I did and thank-you very much Ralfy! Nose: Brine,a bit medicinal and smoke palate: newly unwrapped bandages, smoke,pepper,sour lemon drops,some fruit (orange ?)tobacco Finish:all the foregoing and the lingering taste of a damp poplar campfire which smoldered on and on. I had my first dram while watching the TV special named "Whisky: The Islay Edition" and for the first time could relate. I think I finally get it. Absolutely my best Whisky to date. Love it

Thanx guys Pizaro: I live in a whisky culture void in a province of Canada where all liquor sales are handled by the govenment monopoly. We are at their mercy for selection and price. That said there are 125 or so selections of single malt Scotch usually OB's Lars: You will know what I am saying above. My SIL is going to pick up a few bottles for me when he is in Alberta in a couple of weeks. Now that I have started into Islays with Caol Ila have gained the cojones to try some others so he is going to buy me Laphroaig QC where it is $15 cheaper than Manitoba and some (while it is not an Islay) Talisker 10 as part of my wish list. Hope to pick up 5 assorted bottles for the price of 4 here and also escape the 7% PST.

One of my favorites as well. Rich, smokey, broad Islay character, sweet, but not too much of any one thing. There are also some very good independent bottlings out there - Douglas Laing's 14 year old single cask in particular. Enjoy!


No, this is not a peat monster. It's Islay, no doubts, just a bit milder version of it. Ther are plenty of smoke and peat, quite some fruits and grass as well.

Nose: fresh, clean, spicy, briny, peaty, lemon, freshly cut apple, smoke, smoked fish

Palate: smoke, some fruit sweetness and herbs bitterness, ash, pepper, citrus

Finish: spices, pepper, iodine, sterile bandage, lemon, chalk

Good whisky, but 12 years of maturation and 43 ABV could contribute to more behaved spirits. There's quite a bit of alcoholic bite


My first surprise was its Chardonnay color. The peat is strong and good. The second surprise is that I liked it even though the bottle was freshly opened; It's not as complex and powerfull as the Laphroaig 18 or the Ardeg Ten, but I like it a lot.


Nose: moderate to strong sweet peat, honey, and brine. There is a bit of smoke, but the peat is much more pronounced than is the smoke. Pleasant

Taste: sweet peat and a little smoke contrasted with brine is what you get. There is a bit of background slight fruit flavour as though from partial wine-cask aging. If so, it is a minor suit compared to the peated malt and brine theme. This is flavourful and simple

Finish: long peated finish, with the other flavours also remaining

Balance: this is quintessential moderately peated Islay malt. It will appeal to many peat buffs, though, to my palate, I prefer a heavier medicinal influence with my Islay peat, than this whisky has

@mywhisky, 'medicinal iodine' usually refers to brine and the sea air components. These include sodium salt, iodine, seaweed, and perhaps some additional nuances from sea brine. 'Smoke' usually refers to the peat smoke used to dry the malted barley, which persists to some degree to be experienced in both the nose and the palate. 'Peat' separate from smoke is an experience of the decaying earthy vegetative matter which is peat, without the simultaneous smell and taste of smokiness, as from the burning of that peat. Some whiskies which use peatsmoke for barley malt drying will give very little taste of the smoke per se, but significant flavour of the peat itself, absent the burnt or smokey element. Some malts also use water from a peated source, but do not burn peat to generate smoke to dry the barley-malt. Bruichladdich Rocks, for example, uses peated water but does not use peat-smoke for drying the barley. You can taste the earthy peat there, but there is no smokiness. Smokiness is far more transient once you open the bottle than is peatiness. Even very smokey whiskies like most Laphroaigs will show a very large decrease in smokiness within a few weeks of opening a new bottle.

Smokey whiskies generally tend to be also briney/medicinal. There is still some range though. Some highland malts, like Brora, may be smokey with little briney medicinal component.

Your reviews are always helpful victor, thanks. I would like to ask a question about a comment in the review. You said it was more peat than smoke. I'm new to scotch, but as I understand it peat is the sort of medicinal iodine component? I also assumed that the peat and the smokiness went hand in hand, but is there a malt that has good smoke without so much medicine?


Nose: A bit of an oxymoron to start things off... burnt leaves and fresh sea air. Wet stone. White pepper. Parsley. Faint aniseed and just a hint of dried orange rind. A very fresh, savory nose.

Taste: Fresh, light, measured arrival--deceivingly measured. The first second could fool you into thinking this wasn't whisky. Could disappoint those who like a more brutish, in-your-face whisky, but personally I find it really quite nice. Smoke and peat creep up on you with a mild white pepper heat and become much bigger than the initial impression would lead you to expect. Root vegetables, freshly picked from the garden, wet and freshly washed with a bit of soil still on them. Way in the background there's a slight sharp note that is hard to pin down, but it makes your tongue feel faintly like you've just put in on a 9-volt battery.

Finish: Long, slow and subtle to develop--like the arrival. White pepper note sticks to the tongue, along with the fading autumn day smokiness. A bit of nuttiness and salted cucumber right at the end.

A very interesting dram! Fast becoming an everyday favourite for me.

Yeah... I've got the Distiller's Edition on my wishlist. It's finished in Moscatel casks... which is a sweet fortified wine. I've seen criticisms online of the Distiller's Edition being too sweet, and that the scotch character is masked too heavily. But I think it's really delicious stuff.

Sounds delicious, thanks for the review! Based off an Elements of Islay "CI-1" I had recently I can see myself trying many more Caol Ilas.


If you like the Islays then this is the quintessential dram for you.

The nose is a smoke-storm of burning peaty embers. It's almost like running through a field of burning barley. Very strong yet nicely balanced aromas which, on a second visit, provide you with a touch of tincture and iodine. The third vist (Yes, the nose keeps going) reveals it's sweeter side: burnt sugar on top of caramel pudding. One of the most glorious noses I've come across in recent times!

The palate is a tumble dry of all that the nose promised. The delivery is dry and clean (see how I weaved that in?). A very strong woody component mixed in with a drizzle of roasted nuts, tobacco, cinnamon, nutmeg and licorice ensures that this is one of the ultimate die-hard Islay fan malts.

If you like this one, be shure to try the cask stregth version too, an absolute cracker!


Just playing around with other raters' reviews.

Appearance: Chardonnay with insane leg structure created by a swirl.

Nose: Baked cinnamon pears, lemon pound cake, lots of spiced orange peel. Sort of like Ardbeg where "smoke" is really not a part of the nose as much as more complex and delicate flavors. Letting it sit, you get barbecue meats, salty ribs, honey barbecue, and hints of iodine. Really nice start here.

Taste: Thank the lord, no alcohol warming even when neat with lots of honey, earth, dried orange, tangerine, and black pepper. Very bright all around but soft beckoning for you to spend time to learn of its complexities: salty earth, mild nori/seaweed, thick honey, and many others.

Palate: Very thick, like heated up orange blossom honey. Yum.


One of the best I've ever had. It has the smoke of islay that I love but it's balanced out with fruit and lushness. The peat is present but it's not the main player.


Last night was a Caol Ila night. My girlfriend was at her ballet class, so when the 2 youngest wer in bed, I opened up a bottle of 12YO.

What an amazing nose: the smoke, The smoke! But then, some leather showed up. And orchard flowers. Unbelievably well balanced: the peat and the fleur d'oranger were noth fighting, just sharing the stage.

In my first glass, the flowers disapeared rather quickly, but were replaced by a nice nuttiness. Like recently cracked wallnut, or nutmeg. Lovely.

On the second glass, the orange blossoms stayed put, but a woodiness was added.

Wood, orchard, leather, smoke. Honestly, I can,t shake off the image of a nice fall horseback ride through an apple orchard, with nearby leave piles being burned. Positively charming.

The initial taste is very fresh and floral. But then the smoke appeared, coalescing into what I can only describe as cigar boxy: wood and tobacco leaves. But it's so fresh!

On my 2nd glass (both were about 1oz. so don't give that look), the scotch give me a very fruity undertone. And all neither too sweet nor bitter. Like tangerine supremes, poached in apricot juice and served in a very light lichee syrup.

And the finish : wood, some Jamaican pepper, tobacco leaves and leather. But never harsh.

It's an incredibly smooth Islay. I reaaly loved it.

It was the first time I drank it as a single malt, but I know it's part of the Johnnie Walker black and green, and i'm pretty sure it plays a part in my favorite blend: te bheag.

I have not yet had the pleasure to taste Caol Ila as a single malt. The closest I have come is my bottle of Johnnie Walker Green (which is very good!) I look forward to trying a bottle. Excellent review. I like how you wrote about your first approach & second approach, as whisky definitely changes with each approach.


nose: Usual Islay nute peat, smoke , fruits, apples,seasalt,less intense than 16yo lagavulin,very well balanced, perfect proportion,inspiring and with a hint of mistery.

palate:lots of fruits, orange zest ,honey, oak lots of oak, chocolate after a minute or so,greatest whisky ever tasted by me look into my cabinet to see what I've got than you will know,since today my number one , a must have whisky, just makes me wonder what sort of load bring you older versions of Caol ila.

finish:long lasting, very sweet , delicate smoke ,oak ,bourbon maybe?Lots of love,forgot bacause of excitment obout a body , definetely rich , long lasting legs on the wall of your glancier.

I have a bottling of Gordon & Mcphail. I fully agree, what an explosion. So peated, so smokey. You can smell the taste a hour after you emptied the glass. One of my favourite single malts.


This Islay distillery is one of the lesser know, probably because the largest part of its production is destined for the blends, particularly Johnnie Walker. But still, Caol Ila produces some exquisite whiskies. Today I’ll be trying the 12 Year Old and 18 Year Old from their core range and an Indie that shall remain a surprise for now. Read on!

On the nose, I get green olives, fish oil, a touch of mint and lime. And, of course, quite some peat and smoked meat, but rather soft. It’s also a tad medicinal and has something sour and herbal (like dried grass). Some brine completes the picture. Leave it for a few minutes and you’ll also get some vanilla. Quite nice!

On the palate, it’s very oily and smoky, but soon the sweetness (oranges and molasses) take center stage. Quite the body too. Nice balance.

The finish is powerful and long with smoke (think dying barbecue) and sea salt. At the death, I get some spicy wood (cinnamon?).

This should be a part of any whisky lovers cabinet. For the price (around 35 EUR), don’t hesitate. This is a very complete, peated whisky.


I don't have a huge amount of experience with Islay Whiskys, but based on the more traditional flavor profiles I've experienced (Laphroaig and Ardbeg) this one was a surprise.

The nose starts out all wood smoke, but if you hang around long enough there is a quick acid bite followed by a sweetness, like biting into a mandarin orange.

The taste is similar to the nose but without as strong of a woodsmoke hit. It is sweeter than I would expect, but not sugary sweet, more like an overripe plum or apricot. a bit more of the smoke, this time with a bit of a tarry quality comes in towards the end.

This has a good medium body that drinks very smooth. It is slightly oily but doesn't hang around and finishes very cleanly.


Since the first day, this scotch is consistently my favorite.

Tonight, while the girlfriend is a thousand km away, I tried a risky combo by combining it with the excellent 2002 album by Sigur Ros named () (empty parentheses, it's the album's name, i know...).

The result is subliminal. The freshness of the peat combines perfectly with the reverberation of the keyboards and guitars on the album.

lovely. try it out!


Nose: Light Smoked Salmon, Peat, Citrus?!(lemon), Phenol, Medicinal, Creosote. It smells like an Islay but less intense and more nuanced. Long legs.

Palate: Wow! A lot going on here. A Sweetness balanced by Salt. Toffee, Slightly Smokey. Smooth and medium bodied.

Finish: Medium to long. A very pleasant sweet/sour smokiness lingers on the palate.

An excellent dram, a must have. One of the best I've had.

Bought a bottle of the Caol Illa 12 about 2 months ago. I agree about the creosote and medicinal taste. I'm trying really hard to like it....mixed it with a little Black Bottle to tone it down and liked it a tad better. Maybe I need to let it sit while my taste matures. For now...too bitter.


So, my first whisky review ever, here goes.

Nose: A warm tingle. Sweetly-bitter. Very citrus-like. Grapefruit juice, caramalised lime zest simmering in a pan, lemon jam. A hint of burned rubber and peat, but still quite fresh and crisp. Some subtle complexity.

Body: Oily but light - like virgin olive oil. Leaves long tears on the glass.

Taste: Changes quickly. This whisky presents its flavours one at a time. Starts with a non-distinct warm sweetness, then moves to room temperature white wine, followed by kafir lime leaves and a hint of peat. Less complex than the nose. Very refreshing.

Finish: Quite long for such fresh flavours. Keeps changing. First grapefruit juice, then dry sherry, then an increase in the peat at the end. An undercurrent of fresh smoke throughout.

Comment: The most citrus I've found in a whisky. Very pleasant and consistent. Much crisper and more refreshing than most other Islays. For tasting nights, this is the first Islay to serve. Haven't tried it, but I imagine Caol Ila 12 yo might go well with fish and chips.

Thanks. This is fun, really nice site. Haven't tried the cask strength yet. Of the whiskies I've tried, most have just been your basic 10-12 years old bottles. I think it will go on the wishlist though.

Great review @jcs82. Spot on, this is a lovely whisky.

Have you tried the cask strength version?


On the nose, the peat is noticeable, but sidesteps for the barley. Sea salt develops when the whisky opens up.

The taste buds are greeted with a warm oaky, saltiness, which turns a little sour. Breathing in and out with the whisky in your mouth brings out subtle hints of marshmallow. Fresh seaweed follows.

Rather an interesting dram, as it changes here and there during the tasting.


nose: smoke,peat,lemon zest, tar, medicinal notes. The whole 9 yards… Islay big time. this is what i love! smoked bacon, wet leaves after the first rain. very very appetizing nose. some malty notes after some time are released , excellent!

palate: Thick, oily viscous body. smoke, warm smoke. the entire mouth is warm and delicious. peat paradiso, with some spice on the end. again, the bacon is here, smoked delicious bacony taste. yumm. pepper. pepper! this is Islay’s finest times. a true winning palate.

finish: Loooooooong smoky sweet finish ending on sweet peat and tar. delightful!

@galg if you could choose just one Caol Ila would you go for this is the Cask Strength?

that should read "or" the cask strength!


I am interested in exploring peated whiskies and from reading reviews of several entry level Islays this seemed to be the best place to start.

I would love to say the nose smells like peat but I honestly have no idea what peat smells like so I am going to describe it as smokey and earthy. I also get a hint of citrus on the nose. On the palate the smoke and earth really open up and become much more vibrant than on the nose. To me the citrus comes off as lime but without the tartness (if that makes sense). As the smoke and earth settle down I start to taste some pipe tobacco. The whisky is leaving a nice oily coat inside my mouth and is lingering with a peppery finish.

Overall I really enjoyed the balance of this whisky. I look forward to savoring the rest of the bottle and maybe even sharing it with some close friends.

Any suggestions on some next steps from here?

I would try the Ardbeg 10 year old next, then branch out in any direction you like!


Nose: Peat smoke, but a softer, less insistent peat smoke, less medicinal and strong than Ardbeg or Laphroig. A little wood smoke as well...perhaps a little smoke from burning grass. Orange or even tangerine citrus. Faint floral and vanilla notes as well.

Palate: Begins sweet & rich and has a wonderful oily, coating mouth feel. The peat smoke here is bright and mingles with other smokey flavors like green wood smoke and a little pipe smoke. Holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg even a little clove but with no drying quality. In fact, though it has only faint citrus notes on the palate, it has a very "acidic" quality in that it's mouth-watering and, I'll be honest, extremely hard to stop drinking.

Finish: Long, phenolic and a little peppery, but still with a good roundness. Smooth.

Thoughts: I love this whisky. Wonderfully balanced with all the requisite Islay components, only presented brightly and cleanly, not brooding and heavy. Smokey and rich yet deft & nimble, this is kind of a happy, sunny day Islay.

It's closer to the Lagavulin than the Talisker. But the peat has a more mossy, vegetative character. The Lagavulin has a lot more salt and iodine. The Caol Ila is very smooth and complex at a young age, and is significantly less intimidating to drink for people still on the learning slopes than the Lagavulin. It's definitely an Islay malt, but it very definitely has it's own distinct style.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys peat, and it compares favourably with pretty much any of the base malts from any other Islay distillery (Lagavulin 16, Ardbeg 10, etc).

JDCOOK: thanks for the tip! I've tried Talisker and Lagavulin and like both of them. I might even like Talisker better. And, from your suggestion, Caol Ila might be the perfect thing for my "learning slope." Now I've got to find a good price...I don't think I've seen it down in the deep swampland of Louisiana. No one I know has drunk it.

About choice; Which do YOU like better: Talisker or Lagavulin?


Very clean nose, not very complex but nice anyway. Smoke, peat, motor oil and fresh hints of apple, lemon and grass. Overall rather salty (oysters), you can taste the sea. Very oily, grassy taste in which the slightly sweet smoke only breaks through towards the end. As if the compact taste cannot fully express itself. Powerful, long finish with notes of pepper, barbecue and peat.

I had the cask strength a while ago and loved it. I must admit to wondering how the watering down to 43% would affect it. From your comments it does seem to lose a little character...


great all-rounder, sweet and smoky at the same time but neither overweights the other. Suits everybody who's new to Single Malts.


I actually bought a bottle of Caol Ila at the Airport of Varna (Bulgaria) when heading home from our hollidays. I had never heard of it, but since it's an Islay malt (and I'm quite fond of those), I thought it was a good idea to buy it.

Back home I decided to give it a try, and just as advertised on the packaging it is not quite as strong and smokey tasting as some of the well known neighboors, but it is rather 'balanced'.

I'm not a professional Whiky taster, but if I had to describeit, I would say it doesn't smell as smokey as other Islay Malts, but rather light / fresh and maybe even a bit sweet.

The taste actually is very balanced. The peat and smoke is stronger in the taste than in the aroma, and the finishing is just perfect for my taste.

As I mentioned I never heard of Caol Ila before, but by now I'm a fan :-)

Caol Ila 12 was a good 'gateway' Islay for me - not too harsh on the nose, but still decent peat and smoke. The first time I had Lagavulin I thought I was drinking a wet campfire through a sweaty gym sock. After nursing a few drams of this stuff, I can appreciate the taste of the big boy Islays a lot more.

I know this is an older review, but if you're still around, @sLesage, you might want to consider revising your score so that it's consistent with your comments. Your words imply a score in the 90s, whereas a 50 is regarded as an "F" around here. (It's the sort of score I might give to some of my DYI blending experiments.) ;)

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