Whisky Connosr

Caol Ila 17 Year old "Unpeated" Cask Strength

A very lucky mistake!

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@NozinanReview by @Nozinan

6th Feb 2017


Caol Ila 17 Year old "Unpeated" Cask Strength
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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I came by this bottle accidentally. Well, all the players I discussed it with claim it to be accidental. At the price this was listed at at the LCBO it would never have made it into my radar. LONG STORY ALERT - Review comes after the horizontal line.

Last spring a friend of mine who lives in London was in Halifax and asked if he could bring anything back for me. I immediately looked up the NSCLC website and found a G&M CS Caol Ila for just under $110. Excited, I called a store near his hotel and arranged to buy it and for him to pick it up. However, this was not what he had intended, and he “angrily” refused to take it unless I allowed him to buy me a bottle as well. I chose a less expensive but no less delicious (I was later to find out) Benromach 100/10.

I didn’t see him for a few months, and in September he asked me to donate some bottles for a charity event he was organizing for Kidney disease research. While liver disease would have been more appropriate, I agreed. Because he was coming through town during the day and I was out working, I left four bottles (stuff I would never get around to myself – CRNHR, 1L Caol Ila 12 YO, 1L Glenlivet 18 YO, Aberlour 12 YO) with my mother and he dropped off mine when he picked them up.

Imagine my shock and dismay when I pulled a Glenmorangie Signet out of the bag instead of the Caol Ila. The disappointment! After checking to make sure he hadn’t brought the wrong bottle from home (he doesn’t drink but occasionally gets gifts) he said that the store clerk must have given him the wrong bottle. Hard to believe since I had spoken to the clerk when he was in the store…

Anyway, I considered calling the store and seeing if I could arrange an exchange – if it was indeed their mistake I would have had a good case, but cross-province shipping is an issue. I ended up searching the LCBO website. They had the Signet listed at almost 3 times the price I had paid for the other bottle (but to trade in without a receipt you need to accept an exchange at the same visit…no credit). There was a 17 YO Caol Ila for sale, a CS, that I would never have bought at just over half the price of the signet. Using a gift card that someone had given me I added $20 and came home with 2 of the Caol Ila 17 YO, which I am now reviewing for you.

This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle (15 minutes)after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting. It was just over 1/3 full when I poured it and has been gassed each time it has been opened.


Neat – Off the pour, Rich syrup, sour apple, smoky dust. After 30 minutes, covered, mild sweet peat, rich, faint pineapple, salty, seashells. 22.5/25

With water – Richer syrup, stronger granny smith apple, less peat, the brine and dust seem to have dissipated. (22.5/25)


Neat – Peat, spirit, sweet. Rich, mouth-coating, slight salty sour note on the development. A little rough from the alcohol burn. More complex than I can describe. 22/25

With water – Even a few drops allow the spiritiness to subside, it is more sour and salty. Very savoury. It remains rich and very satisfying. (22.5/25)

Finish: Long, astringent, oak tannins, a little bitter. 21/25. With water, the finish is a little shorter and less bitter. (22/25)

Balance: Good correlation between nose and palate. This is a very well-rounded whisky. 23/25

Score: Neat - 88.5/100 With Water: 90/100

This is a very good whisky. @Paddockjudge, who was with me when I opened it, called it a “Must Try” whisky. I agree to the extent that you should try it if you can, but I also recognize that my net cost for this bottle was $60 Canadian, 1/3 the price it was listed at.

While it is marketed as an unpeated whisky, and I don’t doubt that unpeated barley went into its production, this liquid has come into contact with peat somewhere along its journey. For an Islay malt, this wouldn’t come as a surprise.

I’m very glad that fortune placed this bottle and a spare in my hands. But I have to say I’m feeling a little miffed at missing out on the peat monster I originally purchased. It’s still available (barely) in NS, and so if I know anyone going I will try again…

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sengjc commented

Couldn't agree more. The least priced among the Diageo Special Releases yet plenty of bang for your buck with enough clout to hold its own amongst the pricier releases.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

Astroke commented

I have the 15 year unpeated, and when I first tried it I also noted peat. Couple years later it has dissipated. I like the 15 and have debated on the 17 for probably too long as it is all but gone.

7 years ago 0

Victor commented

Sounds like peat in the water source, similarly to The Laddie Ten.

I haven't had any "unpeated" Caol Ila yet, but I find it interesting that Jim Murray says he thinks that unpeated Caol Ila works better than peated Caol Ila. I am looking forward to trying some of these "unpeated" Caol Ilas in the future.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

Nozinan commented

@Victor Despite Jim Murray's comment I do like the unpeated CI, but I also was blown away by a peated CS CI official bottling a couple of years ago.

@Astroke I am given to understand that the 15 YO and now the 17 YO were from the same distillation run...

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

Nozinan commented

So, four years after opening this one is still a stunner. I poured a half oz last night as my wife and I watched a Korean comedy/thriller drama. I may not have concentrated on every nuance, but it's nice to know you can enjoy a complex whisky even if you're not completely paying attention.

3 years ago 2Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Nozinan Caol Ila produces incredible whisky, peated and unpeated. It's a shame that there aren't more readily available bottlings and that Diageo uses most of their production as "blending fodder".

3 years ago 1Who liked this?