Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Caol Ila Vertical

Needs little introduction.  I did enjoy the Stitchell Reserve at the Diageo 2013 releases tasting enough to buy a bottle, and I’ve got a random bottle of Duncan Taylor Caol Ila from an auction, but Caol Ila’s always been something I’ve tasted out and about, so far, especially at SMWS where it tends to end an evening (in a good way).  Time to get properly acquainted.


Caol Ila 12 year old, unpeated, 64% A⊕+

caol-ila-12-year-old-unpeated-2011-release-whiskyNose – Just a lovely, apples and wax orchard and oak demeanour.  Islay malts aren’t good just because of the peat, it’s a common theme that their unpeated range is wonderful.  A rich, perfumed nose of hotel room shower gel, sweet light toffee malt, apples and pear juice, with a high quality oak note.  Deeply, deeply sweet.  Good stuff.  With water, more wood structure comes through and it’s a little bit more classically presented, and a little bit more elegant.

Body – Lively toffee malt, lots of spicy wood and chilli.  A faint dusting of drying smoke and sulphur.  With water, more fruit, more ash.

Finish – The smoke slowly, imperceptibly turns into this ashen, drying spice.  Great integration of the perfumed oak throughout the delivery.  Almost pure charcoal dust by the end.  I love it.

What's not good about it:  Toasted, ashen, dust on a heating element is hardly “unpeated”, it’s pretty robust actually.

What’s good about it:  But lovely stuff, and very drinkable.  Big fan of the high quality malt fruit and perfume and the overall delivery has great balance and integration.  Bought a bottle.

Thanks to Johnnie Stumbler for the sample.

Caol Ila  “Young and Fiesty” (Provenance, Douglas Laing), 46% A-

caol-ila-young-and-feisty-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose – Classically Islay, apples and peat nose.  Pure Big Peat.  Fresh, young and delicious.  Fresh barley and white wine vinegar.  Just the faintest touch of wax.  Lots of hot dog and popcorn.

Body – Sweet first, big belt of popcorn, then lightly ashen, but quite smooth and very light compared to the 64% unpeated.

Finish – Medium, good balance of peat and sweet throughout.  Very pleasant.

What's not good about it: Very light and young.  Not much complexity, quite weak.

What’s good about it:  Clean and clear.  Good balance.

Thanks to Matt Veira for the sample.

Caol Ila Cask Strength, 61.6%, A⊕

caolcsNose – Lacquered, hard varnish and smoked oak.  Floor polish in a dancehall.  Cox apples and dry cider.  Sweet, elegant, but common and sexy.  With water, a little more orchard and musk, a little less wax and lacquer and a little bit of cider vinegar.

Body – Suddenly, ashen peat and loads of wood structure.  Beautiful balance, quite arresting orchard fruits and charcoal.  With water, a lot more fruit and less ash, but still structured and balanced.  Wonderful balance throughout.  Good, oily, chorizo mouthfeel.

Finish – Long, ashen oak and apple wood.  Fizzing, numbing fire.  Wonderful stuff.

What's not good about it: Could do with more fruit to balance the structure, and a bit more complexity.

What’s good about it:  Sexy fruit, ash and wood structure.  Very delicious, intensely phenolic and numbing.

Thanks to Johnnie Stumbler for the sample.

Caol Ila 25 year old, 43% A

3838-6130caolila25yearoldboxNose – Hello, darkly sherried filth!  Fresh marker pens and fresh pears – massive fresh, juicy, ripe pears.  A little hot dog, cherry and smoked scallops; really sweet, fresh and lively.  And absolutely delicious.  If the body lives up to this it’s worth every penny.

Body – Sweet, balanced, muskily smoked but quite watery and lacking intensity compared to the cask strength.  Definitely doesn’t live up to the nose, it’s just too weak.  Otherwise there are no faults.

Finish – Quite long, oily.  It initially lands as very rich, and beautifully balanced, but quite quickly reverts to something a lot less with some bitterness and sweetness and a general lack of poise.  However, more of the ashen, smoked fish notes come through in a delicious, toothsome way.

What's not good about it: Quite diluted, lacks intensity, too light.

What’s good about it:  Fabulous nose and great balance initially.  Credible notes but lacks midrange and intensity.

Thanks to Johnnie Stumbler for the sample.

Duncan Taylor, The NC2 Range, Caol Ila 15 years old, 46% A⊕

Distilled 1992, bottled 2007.  Non-Chillfiltered, Non-Coloured = NC2.  In the days before!  This is another bottle that was initially disappointing and took a little while to wake up after opening.

nc2caolislaNose - Sweet, light apples, hay, pear juice and very light, sweet peat.  In quite an elegant, deep way, there’s a dark caramel sweetness behind it and more blond wood.  A touch of petrol, a touch of digestive biscuits.  It’s delicate, balanced, a touch of cereal and quite strict, but quite rude.

Body - Sweet and toasted.  Deep richness but only on the side of the tongue.  Somehow manages to be light and rich, sweet and toasted.  It is though, not an intense experience.

Finish - Medium, lingering burnt toast.  A bit of grapefruit citrus in there.  Quite oily by the end.  A little new beach ball.  Quite an odd finish and not altogether satisfying.

What's not good about it: Takes a while to open up and a lot of investigation to discover what it’s all about. Leaves you strangely unsatisfied at the end but does keep you coming back for more.

What’s good about it:  Elegance, balance in the delivery, moreish, refreshing, rather interesting.

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