I absolutely love Caol Ila. It’s without a doubt one of my favourites. Unfortunately they don’t have a very big portfolio these days. The CS is getting harder and harder to find, and the 18 year old hasn’t been around for a couple of years. Even the 12 has seen a recent price hike here in Taiwan. Of course, you can and should check out some IB’s, but you could also look for Port Askaig; Caol Ila’s non-OB OB. Today I’ve got the 17 year old. It’s un-chill filtered, naturally coloured, and bottled at British 100 proof. I like it already.
Nose: Immediately Caol Ila. Brine, barley, citrus, hay, malt, honey, lemon lozenges, ginger, and faint eucalyptus. Classic.
Palate: Light, airy mouthfeel. Arrives gently. Peat, brine, white pepper, sponge cake, vanilla, honey, and wet oak.
Finish: Long and sturdy. Smoke, woodspice, wet oak, black peppercorns, seaweed, peat, brine, lemon lozenges, ginger, sponge cake, and lingering grapefruit.
Thoughts: Beauty through simplicity. There’s nothing new, groundbreaking, or unexpected here. It’s classic Caol Ila, and it’s VERY well done. The peat, the brine, the citrus, the honey; they’re all here. In keeping with the house style, it isn’t heavy or overly phenolic. As one might expect, the oak is more forward here than it is with the 12 year old (I haven’t tried the CI 18). It’s drying, warming, and gently spicy. Excellent choices of casks, I think. The conventional flavours find themselves perfectly balanced, and the light mouthfeel and restrained phenols make this a gentle giant. It’s top-quality stuff that’s both effortless and deeply satisfying. I find this brilliant.