Distillery: Caol Ila
Age: 20 years
Limitation: 564 bottles
Colour: white wine
Seems like yesterday since I last tasted a refill-Butt 20-ish Caol Ila. I was very fond of the last one so there’s certainly no harm in trying another! The nose is… rather gentle and delicate, actually. Very little alcohol despite nearly 58% ABV with a light and delicate peat smoke – almost a Bowmore-ish flowery note (burning lavender and violets?). Slightly damp cotton candy, diluted honey, almost faded Italian orange blossoms, citrus juice with bits and peel, an oak board in a florist’s shop and highland honey so faint you’re wondering if the bees made it through the summer. No, wait, there are also sunflower seeds, so the bees did find flowers to make honey… The palate starts out very gentle, oily and with a nice sweetness to it (not cloying), before the alcohol kicks in – but it fades quickly again. Mouth-coating, oily, chewy consistency with honeyed marshmallows, thin-cut marmalade, traces of peat smoke made up of flowery smoke (burning orange blossoms, lilac and violets) and aged vintage kirsch schnaps. There’s also a “vintage” taste to it – earthy, mineral-oily, newspaper print – but very well-integrated and giving complexity to the background. The cask was pretty much spent so what we have here is a demonstration of distillate, distillery character and mostly subtractive maturation. The finish is long, with almost new-make character upon swallowing – but aged new-make, if that makes any sense at all. Slightly bitter with a cotton candy sweetness, orange blossoms and orange peel, ginger, but going down very oily with notes of fragrant peat smoke and oily newspaper (used for wrapping fried stuff (not chippies))?.
Oh, that one’s going to divide the masses! I can guarantee you, every other bottler would’ve finished this delicate spirit to death with *insert random fancy wine here*. It’s no secret – this was matured for 20 years in an almost dead cask – a big one at that. So we’ve got aged new-make in a sense, just a bit added by the cask, most properties can be attributed to subtractive maturation (i.e. “nasty” notes and harshness taken away from the spirit). I like it a lot – but, again, this might not be for everybody!
(Nose: 86 Palate: 87 Finish: 85)
The sample for tasting was kindly provided by Cadenhead’s Whisky Market Austria. Cheers!