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Caol Ila is the largest distillery on Islay, pumping out 3.6 million litres of spirit a year. It was built by Hector Henderson in 1846, who sold it in 1852 to Norman Buchanan (owner of Jura). Five years later, he sold it to Bulloch Lade, a Glasgow blender, who expanded the distillery in 1879. Pretty much demolished in 1972, it was reborn because Diageo stablemate Lagavulin could not keep up with demand. As you can imagine, it is a fixture in Johnny Walker blends.
Like all of Diageo's Classic Malts, Caol Ila's Distillers Edition is double matured - this one in Moscatel wine casks. This bottling was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2010. This bottle has been open (and 4/5 empty) for many years.
The colour is a light gold. On the nose we have a lovely display of fresh peat smoke with caramel apple, cinnamon and papaya. Like a beautiful flowery herb garden. The "fishiness" of some Caol Ilas is tamed, but the brininess is definitely there. I can't get the word "fresh" out of my mind when I nose this. Medicinal. More herbal with water. A real pleasure.
On the palate - spicy, oily (that trademark "fishiness" is here, but still muted) with peat smoke, light caramel, Granny Smith, tropical fruits and sea salt. Quite complex, and maybe a little too all-over-the-place. Still, I love these flavours. Water ups the peat and adds some malt. Interesting...
The finish has more fish oil (in a good way), brine and even a very slight hint of grainy mustard (I'm not kidding). On one hand, I like it as I enjoy all the component flavours, but I can't help but feel it's a bit unbalanced. Still, I'd buy another bottle.
Also, the Jays won tonight.