Acquired: Birthday Gift, 7th August 2020
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2020
90/100 – Whisky in the 6 (his video review below)
86.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 174 member votes)
I was delighted to receive this Caol Ila 18yo as a birthday gift. Initially I thought it was the standard 18yo until I saw the 59.8% on the box. Some quick research later and I discovered it was the Diageo special release bottled from 2017. The further away we get from the last millennium the nicer it is to acquire whisky distilled before 2000. It’s pure sentimentality that Millennials and Generation Z wouldn’t understand. Hard to believe such a wonderful single malt from 2017 is still available new in 2020 but it was. No need for an auction site quite yet.
I haven’t added a Caol Ila to my collection for nearly 5 years. I love the distillery but it goes to show how much choice there is out there that it’s been neglected for so long. Of my previous 4 examples of Caol Ila none are unpeated like this 2017 18-year-old. Several reviews either say they detect a hint of peat or the smoke element gives a strong illusion of peat. It’s interesting that Caol Ila can’t shake off what people expect to taste but it’s great that the distillery isn’t scared to strip the peat away. It clearly works, and works well.
Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’, scores this Caol Ila 18yo a fantastic 96/100, which classifies it as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. He scores the taste a near-perfect 24.5/25 with the remark “so, so beautiful” and finishes with “this is the way Caol Ila should be: so true to the distillery”. Other comments online include “intense arrival, it maintains a maritime character and has substantial oak to affirm its age”, “an extremely rewarding Islay malt, despite its lack of peat” and “just a superb whisky”. What a lovely birthday gift!
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: At the tasting we attended, “chocolate digestives” was met with universal agreement. Quite creamy with bourbon hints and sliced peaches too.
Palate: Fruitier now, fragrant and concentrated with a little furniture polish. This is complemented by the expected soft caramel and clean seashell character.
Finish: Cake-like with just a hint of smoke (even though this is ‘unpeated’).
Here’s Rob of ‘Whisky in the 6’ on YouTube giving us his thoughts about this special Caol Ila 18yo (Oct 2018):
Bought: SMWS, 30th October 2015
90/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
SMWS name: Jekyll & Hyde
Up until a few days ago there was no rating on Whiskybase for this Caol Ila but thankfully someone came to my rescue with a stunning 90/100. The tasting notes on the bottle read “honey glazed ham and boozy grilled pineapple. The taste is an explosion of peat smoke and brown sauce served with fish and chips. With water, smoked scallops and a peat smoked pineapple soufflé.” Sounds lovely!
Although Jim Murray doesn’t mention this exact Caol Ila 19yo in his Whisky Bible 2016 he does include 9 bottlings by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) including four 18-year-olds. This is a similar maturity to my 19yo sample and their scores range from 85.5/100 to 91/100, which is excellent news. Of the 9 bottles the lowest mark is 81/100, which is still “good whisky worth trying” according to the book’s score chart. This might not seem 100% relevant since every whisky is different but it lets me know that those within the SMWS that taste and select Caol Ila casks for bottling are consistently good in the eyes of Mr Murray.
I’ve yet to taste a bad Caol Ila and this sample isn’t likely to change that fact. Now, where’s my glass…..
Bought: Tesco, 10th September 2015
84.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 101 member votes)
In the Whisky Bible 2015 the previous ‘Distillers Edition’ 2000/12 scores an amazing 95/100. It also scores 86.13/100 on Whiskybase from 54 votes. 84.67/100 for my bottle is a bit of a slip but both are the same age, strength and double matured in Moscatel cask wood. You’d expect a lot of similarity between the two releases and clearly the quality is kept high for this delightful Islay single malt.
I was hoping to pick out some interesting comments from the reviews on Whiskybase but the majority are in German. English comments about the taste include “peat, chocolate, salt, liquorice, toffee, lime and peach” also “ashes, spices, some gun powder, liquorice and citrus – lemon”. Someone summarises with “nice Islay, to bad for that weak finish” although others say the finish is ‘medium’. Each to their own as usual but clearly this is a very pleasant dram.
Bought: Waitrose, 21st January 2015
87/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.66/100 – Whiskybase (average from 127 member votes)
82/100 – Ralfy – His YouTube review here (August 2012)
I’m beginning to think of Caol Ila as ‘the easy drinking Islay’. An Ardbeg is like Guinness, where a couple of glasses are delicious but very rich, deep and filling. Caol Ila on the other hand is like an easy-sipping beer. The whole night can slip by without you realising how many glasses you’ve had until you try and get up and your legs go to jelly.
87/100 in the Whisky Bible is excellent, and the author confirmed my view of Caol Ila by saying “Easy drinking Islay” then concluding with “though I think they mean “Mocha”.” Ralfy’s review gives an interesting summary of the flavours. If I manage to detect half of his list I’ll be happy! He thinks the Moch is mostly 7 to 8-year-old whisky.
Two reviewers on Whiskybase compare the Moch to the Caol Ila 12yo saying it’s “softer and sweeter” and “more complex and more fruity” than its older brother. Whiskybase scores the 12yo 83.86/100, so almost identical to the Moch, and the Whisky Bible has the 12yo two points ahead with 89/100. Comparisons aside, the Moch sounds like a very pleasant dram.
Bought – Demijohn, 4th September 2013
81/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
Quote from Demijohn website about the whisky: “This particular single cask malt is from Cask No. 304640, filled in 2004 and limited originally to approximately 275 bulk litres. It took over a year to secure, so appreciate this single malt whisky while you still can!”
I’m delighted to find that someone has now added this independent bottling (IB) of Caol Ila on Whiskybase where they say “Young and feisty, with lots of peat on the nose and palate. Rather expensive compared to other young Caol Ila IBs.”
Bought – Whisky Exchange, 28th July 2013