Review: Caol Ila 17 Years Old Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Special Release 2015) / by Jason Hambrey

17 years; Ex-bourbon casks
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Caol Ila produces both peated and unpeated single malt, and in fact supplies both streams as components of Johnnie Walker. It’s always nice, for the sake of interest, to see distilleries which primarily produce peated whiskies to release unpeated ones so we better understand distillery character beyond the peat. This was one of Diageo's yearly special releases which come from an assortment of different distilleries every year.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: Special Release 2015

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Fruity – but less of a bright sort of fruity and more heavy– dried pineapple, dried apricot, hay, white gooseberry, stewed apricots, baked peaches – yet with the malt clearly in the middle of it all. Vanilla, light oak, cumin, black pepper, caraway, and light custard too – quite a complex offering, and it certainly doesn’t clash! These unpeated “marine” whiskies I often don’t find overly sea-like, but here there is definitely a light dried fish/seaweed edge to it. Brilliant. Terrific Oak in this one too.

The palate continues from the nose, with more oak coming in and with great feel. Some white pepper, too, is in the mix. The complexity from the nose carries through, but not quite as clearly – dominated by the fruitiness. The hay and malt notes take the background, and the spiciness is there, but light. The dried pineapple is still prominent. There is a nice chilli note here, too.

The finish carries through with peaches, oak, pepper, and some tannins (which are almost over the edge!).

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

Value: Low. A pretty expensive bottle of whisky.