Caol Ila

Review: Caol Ila 18 Years Old Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Special Release 2017) by Jason Hambrey

Caol+Ila+18+2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
18 years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

An 18 year old Caol Ila, unpeated - different from their typical releases. I’ve liked these in the past - I always like trying these.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Special Release 2017

  • Bottling Code: l7079cm000 51690150

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is awesome - rich marine malt, apple, sea salt, oak, grass, hay, spices, pineapple, and light vanilla.  Great nose. The taste has loads of hay, sweet light oak, mixed orchard fruit, clove, and a touch of chilli-type spice. A touch of tannic textre. Some rich leather-like aged notes too.  The finish is light, with oak, orchard fruit, toffee, and green wood.  Barley comes in nice at the end. It’s very rich! A nice deep malt.

It’s quite nice with water – it really shows off the depth of caol ila’s malt, even without the peat.

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

Value: Low. A pretty expensive bottle of whisky.


Review: Cladach Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
57.1%
Aging
First-fill ex-bourbon, refill American oak, refill European oak, Ex-sherry European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Blend of malts from Clynelish, Inchgower, Oban, Talisker, Caol Ila, and Lagavulin

This is a relative rarity in the Diageo Special releases - a blended malt. This one is focused on coastal distilleries, hoping to convey a general maritime character. “Cladach” means shoreline.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nice whisky! The nose starts with toffee, mixed spice, a touch of sulphur, smoke, roasted meat, light tropical notes, washed-up seaweed, vanilla, and a touch of rubber. Slightly floral, too. The palate blooms with smoke, charred chickpeas, a kick of tropical fruit, and a touch of youth that works really well with its untamed presence. The lagavulin in it is just beautifully integrated. It is phenomenal at cask strength - it starts sweet, goes oily and tropical, then ashy, and fruity. The finish has rock pools, vanilla, clove, and cedar. It is very nice.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very Low (based on $312 - though you might get a better deal)


Review: Caol Ila Unpeated 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Release 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
59.1%
Aging
15 years; Refill and rejuvenated American oak, ex-bodega European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Another unpeated Caol Ila, this time 15 years old and at a whopping 59.1%! I quite liked the 2015 release, so I’m rather eager to see how this one plays out. I do prefer the peated caol ilas, generally, but I can’t help but be fascinated to see the unpeated spirit come through. This was distilled in 2002.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is fruity and spicy, with stone fruits, dried apricot, light spice, and oak underneath. Still more….toffee, vanilla, a bit of earthiness, pear, mint. A bit tropical, and quite creamy especially at higher proof. Very candied at cask strength.

The palate carries all the flavours through – fruity, tropical notes, grain – and a touch of nice arugula at the end. Very well integrated. Lots of toffee, spice, and a bit of juniper too. Terrific mouthfeel. The finish has toffee, pear, canned peaches, white pepper, sugar candy, and a light herbal influence.

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

Value: Low to Average. It isn’t terribly expensive, and it’s a good bottle of whisky - it’s not quite on par with the average price for Scotch whiskies this good, but it’s close.


Review: Caol Ila 35 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
58.1%
Aging
35 years; Refill American oak hogsheads, refill American and European oak butts
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

The flagship whisky of the 2018 Diageo special releases. The oldest official Caol Ila bottling - I’ve had a few old independent bottlings of Caol Ila (like a 31 year old from Signatory which was quite good but not outstanding). Old peated scotch, matured in refill casks…nice!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is unbelievable. Leather, wax, ever-so-light smoke - wow! Unbelievable nose. A bit of mint, dried strawberries, guava, hazlenuts, almond, ashiness, menthol, cedar, dry earth, and old orange peel. The palate is rich, spicy, and a bit smoky! Very spicy - shocking - but this works really well and softens as it sits. Rich and balanced, with more leather and waxy notes and classic old whisky notes. Loads of toffee and spice develop towards the finish. The finish has light spice, and is rich and complex, with honey, sweet peat, light tannic oak, herbal notes, pistachios, and an elegant dryness. The smokiness fits so well. And then grainy, too!

The tropical notes are fascinating throughout, and I love them. One of the best scotch whiskies I’ve tasted - really good.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. Not a cheap bottle of whisky.


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Caol Ila & Bunnahabhain Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila (so...this is gotta be decent at the least!) - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. This was based on Graeme's optimal combination of two casks from the Scottish highlands, among the ones he has to work with. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting – there is a bit of a house style in all of these twa casks. All quite leafy, and influenced by that re-toasted red-wine barrique. Quite floral and smoky, with a nice smoky edge. Cinnamon, peat bogs, pear, clove, cinnamon, anise, and good oak influence. The palate has a very nice rising smoke to it, culminating together with Islay medicinal smoke and some red licorice. Nice deep finish, full of minerality, smoke, and dried fruit. My favorite of the Twa Casks – but the red-wine finished Twa casks are all quite good.

Also, I quite like most of what comes from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila...

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: N/A


Caol Ila 31 Year Old 1983 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Signatory Cask Strength Collection) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
49.6%
Aging
31 years; Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Some of these old Caol Ilas are absolute beauties. This was matured from November of 1983 to Febuary of 2015.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 5298

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Here we have an interesting mix, and age has certainly transformed this one. Light rancio, oak embers, dried peach, dried mango, plump currants (as in cooked oatmeal), custard, and some nice oaky earthiness. Again, not overly peaty – much of the minearlity, smokiness, and marine character of the peat is quite muted.

The palate turns out a bit better with the nose, with some good quality peaty ash and burning embers playing the primary roles, with light dried fruit and oak besides. The finish is tannic with peat, spice, and some good minerality , earthiness and light custard. Beautiful mouthfeel. Some brilliant oak at the end.

The cask, it would seem, hasn’t done this one too well – it all feels a bit flat – the cask, it would seem, may be tired here. I say this partially because the older Caol Ila’s can be among the best and I’d always be eager to try them.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s a good whisky, but I was a bit dissapointed. There are some fantastic old Caol Ila’s out there, and this one isn’t bad, but you can do better.

Value: Low. For me, 300$ is the price of my perfect whisky, and I don’t like buying whiskies generally over 100$ unless they are really good. This one is nearly double 300$.


Review: Caol Ila 19 Years Old 1996 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Douglas Laing Old Particular) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51.5%
Aging
19 years; Refill Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

This is a single cask bottling by Douglas Laing of Caol Ila spirit matured 19 years in a refill sherry hogshead.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 10971 (313 bottles)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The peat has certainly shifted – much of the big smokiness is faded and the mineral and marine character of the peat is at the fore. Oak, dried fish, rockpools, stewed summer fruits, burning leaves, oak embers, stewed peach, white gooseberry, and light oiliness. Nice on the nose, but not yet a world of its own.

On the palate, the peat is quite delicate but ashy and dry in a very compelling way. The tannins feed in nicely, and there are some lighter vanilla notes alongside rich cinnamon and clove. And some distrinct jalapeno. The cask strength is a great strength to drink at, and brings forth the elegance of the whisky. It is very good, and goes down easily – but there is less complexity than ideal here also. The finish is smoky, with stewed fruits, toffee, custard, and light rancio. Very nice whisky.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. A pretty expensive buy.


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

ABV
55.9%
Aging
17 years; Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
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.


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

ABV
43%
Aging
12 years; Moscatel Cask Finish
Recipe
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.


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

ABV
43%
Aging
12 years
Recipe
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.