Review: Caol Ila Distiller's Edition Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

12 years; Moscatel Cask Finish
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

The Diageo "Distillers Edition" single malts typically represent a whisky similar to a whisky in the core range which has been finished in a different cask (typically a type of wine/sherry). This Caol Ila distiller's edition is finished in a Moscatel Cask - a sweet fortified wine similar to PX Sherry which is produced from at least 85% moscatel grape.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2014 (distilled 2002)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Has many of the same characteristics of the standard 12 year old, but the peat is held back by some rich dried fruit and spice – raisins, stewed peaches, dried peaches, mulled red wine, and light floral vanilla – but I wouldn’t immediately think of the flowery and light muscatel wines I’ve had, partially because the volatile peat is entwined in all of the lighter notes, pulling them down. It still has terrific smokiness and minerality to it. Roasted nuts and honey too.  However, some of the peat is held back by the wine, resulting in a product that is different but is inherently a bit less complex and interesting than the 12 year old I am comparing it to (granted, from a great batch). There is, however, some very nice caramel and toffee that emerges with time, alongside some milk chocolate. That component is good, but does throw the balance off a little too.

The taste has some brilliant peat (and associated minerality, iodine, and marine character), more caramel in different varities – toffee, dulce de leche, and butterscotch - cinnamon, stewed apples, shortbread, and burnt wood. The finish brightens up a bit with some lighter fruitiness (gooseberries and white grape) and honeysuckle coming in. A few fresh peaches come in from time to time as well. The finish is a touch too tannic. Quite nice, but I’d still take the standard 12 year old – it is just a bit more alive than this one in a head to head.

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

Value: Average. It’s a good whisky, and about on par what you’d expect to pay for a peated scotch of this quality.