I really like Caol Ila. One of my favourite Islay drams was an OB NAS CI cask strength that I believe I opened with @TAlexander in 2014. It was a 200 cc bottle. I have a couple stashed away, and I usually have an open bottle of a peated CS (usually IB) in my cabinet. I do believe that Caol Ila is close to if not my favourite peated Islay whisky when presented at cask strength.
A few years back I came upon the 17 YO unpeated release and have thoroughly enjoyed it, so when the opportunities to pick up the 15 at a reasonable price came up (twice on sale and once as an LCBO trade-in of unwanted bottles), I always jumped. I ended up with three bottles, each with a different ABV.
I picked this bottle up in 2019 in Calgary. I opened it in Dec. 2021 at an Epic Tasting with a few Connosr folk. I’ve tasted and shared it a few times, gassing with each use. I last had some about a month ago and the bottle is just over half full.
This expression is reviewed in a Brilliant Highland Whisky Glass in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting again.
Warm and sweet. When left covered the alcohol is really noticeable. Lots of baking spices. Baked green apples. Vanilla. Dusty. More fruity with some air time. Water adds a butterscotch syrup note. The nose becomes a little richer and more complex. (22/25)
Very rich, oily. Fruity. Ethanol nip. Non-specific fruitiness, spicy on the development. Water makes it a little thinner and hotter. Still pleasant but less oily on the mouth feel. (21.5/25)
Sour, slightly spicy, pepper on the finish. Similar with water.
Well balanced - slight alcohol nip. Fairly flawless.
Score: Neat - 87/100 With Water: 87/100
I think that although I scored them the same, I prefer the benefits of sipping this one neat. Of course preference can vary from day to day.
I have a very small amount (about 1 oz) of the 17 YO CS which I opened in Sept. 2026. I poured a small amount to compare. The liquid is a shade darker than its younger sibling. The noses are very similar, with more caramel in the 17 yo, and slightly less spirity than the slightly fruitier 15 yo. The 17 is a bit drier than the 15. I think when the bottle was at its best, the 17 YO was more interesting, but now it has dulled a bit.
Mixing them together is not successful. Perhaps blended without having added water might be better.
This is a very good whisky. I look forward to trying the other two 15 YO releases in time…