By: David Othenin-Girard
K&L Staff Member
The simple fact that we can get and sell Caol ila over 10 years old for less than $70 as a cask strength single barrel gives us pause. Islay's unsung giant, the Caol Ila distillery looks out of the Straits of Islay offering one of the most impeccable views from any still house in the world. Finished for some time in a nice sherry butt, likely one reused from another bottling, rather than one of these seasoned ones, this Caol Ila is the perfect contrast to the linear saline driven version we bottled with Old Particular this year. Several of my customers have mentioned that it reminds them of peated sherried Bunnahabhain and I have to say I must agree. Indeed there is some Bunnah in this little blend, but not enough to augment the character of this special barrel. The color is an inviting russet. The nose offers a great mixture of peat and sherry that doesn't lean to heavily on either element too stringently. Bacon smoke, leather, ignited citrus oils, fresh innertube - very savory but not that hit of ocean or peat you might expect. On the palate - this is where it hits! Bit burning bunches of moss, chocolate orange truffle, black pepper, finally some saltiness as the finish grows. The spirit is quite fat and lengthy. With water, we lose some of the savory bacon notes on the nose, now more orange and spice. Big sweetness on the palate now and it remains extremely expressive and bold, with a tingly spicy finish. I love it both ways, but I'm going to lean toward straight out of the bottle here although my mood would likely change with the weather. Needless to say, this is one of the biggest scores we've had in a while. It doesn't excite like some of Islay's other distillers, but there's no reason Caol Ila shouldn't remain in every peat lovers upper echelons. This cask only bolsters that lofty reputation, albeit in a not ultra-typical manner.