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I've generally liked Caol Ila and found this bottle at the LCBO (Caol Ila doesn't get here very often). As I have an older 1997 DE, thought we could do a little compare and contrast. These releases are finished in Moscatel wine casks. My bottle has been open for a couple of months.
The colour is a medium-light gold. On the nose we have smoked mackerel, coastal sea spray, light peat, pencil shavings, sweet malt and Fisherman's Friend. Maltier with water. Not overly complex, but what you might expect from this distillery.
The palate, unfortunately, is a mishmash of peat, black pepper and Hall's throat lozenges. The silky mouthfeel is the only indication that a wine cask is involved here. Very little oak here, despite being about 12 years old. Not much complexity nor balance here, though water helps smooth things out.
The finish is long and a little rough, with cough syrup, brine and indeterminate spice. This is very different from the 1997 DE, which is much more balanced and subtle (note that this bottle has been open for many years; I reviewed it last October). The 2003 just hits you with flavours all set to the same high-pitched volume, whereas the 1997, though not completely successful, layers the notes fairly well. Disappointing.