Review: Caol Ila 12 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Caol Ila 12.jpg
12 years
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Caol Ila is perhaps best known not as a single malt, but as the heart of the smoky component in Johnnie Walker blends. It is located on the northeast part of Islay, far away from the peat powerhouses of Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. Most of its production goes to Johnnie Walker, with limited amounts being released as a single malt. It does well for Johnnie Walker, and it does well for single malts - I really like Caol Ila.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L4188 CM000 03541633

  • Bottling Date: 2013

We have some balancing goodness here - tangy caramelised lemon (like one you’d pull out of a batch of roasted vegetables or a chicken), burning leaves, peat, spices, oak, and vanilla - all well balanced. Still - fruity and candy-like underneath. On that palate, a bit sweet - vanilla, rockpools, with some lingering smoke in the quality of burning leaves. Some creaminess too, with a light touch of bourbon notes. A little flatter on the palate than the nose. Malt grows and comes on more on the end, and the finish shows the grain so well. As I tasted and compared this to other whiskies the score kept going up – the nose is terrific particularly.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It’s hard to find many good peated Scotch whiskies under 100$, and this is one of the few. However, it’s still not cheap.

Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L9297CM009 00003427

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The smoke here is just so nice, and it has a nice mineral edge – something that I particularly like. I find it often in my favourite Ardbegs…but here as well. Also, white pepper, black pepper, stewed peaches (with skins), vanilla, woodsmoke, olive oil, light medicinal characteristics, and a light farmy character which is very nice.

Cacao on the palate, along with some bay leaves, smoke, vanilla, anise seeds, fresh fennel (the anise and fennel are nods – it isn’t overly licorice-laden). It has a nice rich, almost umami-like character.

The finish has some pickled lemons, wood smoke, crab apple, burning leaves, and some clove. Slightly acidic on the finish, and a bit drying. Some really nice wisps of wood smoke.

A classic Scotch whisky, it really is.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $85. However, pretty good value for a peater.