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Caol Ila 1998 Distillers Edition

Average score from 3 reviews and 3 ratings 87

Caol Ila 1998 Distillers Edition

Product details

  • Brand: Caol Ila
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 43.0%
  • Vintage: 1998

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Caol Ila 1998 Distillers Edition

Nose: sweet peat. Not a ton of smoke in this one. The peat is thick with a sort of mothball sweetness to it. Not the most complex Islay aroma but it is nice and clean.

Taste: a little thin on the tongue, but it arrives with much more smoke than was advertised in the nose. There is a sweet vanilla sheen to it, though the wine casks certainly don't overtake the typical Islay flavour.

Finish: pleasantly peaty, but some of the perfumey sweetness also persists.

Balance: this is a pleasant Islay malt that seems to lack a certain punch. Maybe it is the thin mouthfeel but I expected a little more oomph.


Caol Ila is often called “the neglected Islay whisky.” It’s so neglected, it’s famous for being neglected. And I’m not sure who’s guilty of all this neglecting. It’s one of the more ubiquitous brands in liquor stores large and small, and its reputation has always been strong among connoisseurs.

Therefore, I always interpret “neglected” in any Caol Ila review to mean “Slightly less popular than Ardbeg, Lagavulin, or Laphroaig.”

I’ve long thought that the standard Caol Ila 12 yo was about the best introduction to peat for a whisky newcomer. It’s tame but uncompromising, in that it lacks the aggressiveness of, say, Ardbeg, but it offers a full palette of peat flavors from sweet to smoky.

This 1998/2011 Distiller’s Edition is a tamer beast than the 12 yo, yet I give it high marks for balancing the smoothness with such a high concentration of peat. It also has the right sort of “sweet peat” to complement its array of fruit and candy aromas. Matured in American oak, finished in Moscatel casks. Fifth (or sixth?) dram from a three-month old bottle, so it’s had some time and space to settle. At 43%, I prefer this neat. One drop of water adds to the caramel layer in the palate and finish. Another drop drowns it.

Nose: A gentle peat, but rich and penetrating. After a couple of minutes, I get white wine and loads of indistinguishable fruits: mostly citrus and berries. I can’t decide if this nose is deceptively simple or deceptively complex. But it’s definitely satisfying regardless.

Palate: Very sweet lemony peat on the arrival; fruits (grapes, apples, strawberries), barbeque smoke, and a little caramel develop soon thereafter. Becomes smokier and meatier the longer it sits. A complex but mild tongue.

Finish: Exquisite, superb, breathtaking, and even darn good. Smooth but powerful on the way down. Not much but sweet smoke, pepper, and a trace of malt, but there’s nothing wrong with minimal components when they’re delicious and last forever.

In short, CE ’98 DE may lack some kick, but it compensates with flavor. It’s one for early in a tasting evening: when you’re ready to get serious about things, but not ready to be overwhelmed yet.


This edition is distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2011.

Nose: Chocolate covered raisins, beer, bitter citrus zest. Baked orchard fruit and cloves. Pencil shavings and sweet BBQ. There's a slight solvent edge that is both unfortunate and deceiving considering how easy-drinking this whisky is. The nose isn't as bright and fresh as the standard 12-year, but still engaging.

Taste: Typical Caol Ila arrival... quiet and overly mild mannered at first--sneaky--and then a wave of sweet wine and malt lets loose billows of smokey flavours and seaside notes. Over-ripe red fruits and cotton candy. Wood influence on this, again, isn't as bright as the standard 12 year. A white pepper note sustains throughout and into the...

Finish: Smoke, gingersnaps, black tea and stewed mint on the exhale. Tasty and enduring.

The thing I like particularly about Caol Ila is its ability to balance freshness with the bombastic smoke and peat of Islay. This expression looses much of that fresh quality with the Moscatel wine finish, and while it's still a tasty and interesting whisky... I much prefer Caol Ila nude, without any fancy finishes.

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