Category Archives: Caol Ila

Where’s the Peat??

Like the well known Wendy’s commercial “Where’s the Beef?” from the mid-80’s – I wondered about the missing ingredient for Caol Ila’s Unpeated Style release.  What would Caol Ila taste like without the peat and smoke?  Would it be a bad thing or would is support that Caol Ila is more than just peat?  This release is the 10 year old version from 2009 and is bottled at the upper reaches of the heat scale: 65.8% ABV.  ~$65

Color:  Light gold, tinge of yellow

Nose:  Asian pears, coastal saltiness, citrus, medicinal alcohol burn, some oak

Palate:  Big alcohol, honey sweetness, malty, for me it needs some water.  After some water:  much better, vanilla, lemon zest, creamy, spicy and prickly

Finish: Long with a zing of lemon and heat and some lingering spice

Comments:  A big change from what we are all used to from Caol Ila.  Overall it is very nice and a testament to Caol Ila by showing that their whisky is more than just peat and smoke.  It is almost like finding a new distillery.  This review is a little late in coming as there is now a 12 year old version. I can’t wait to give that a try and compare it to this release.


Filed under Caol Ila, Whisky Impressions

1996 Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition

Had this at one of our tastings some time ago – but didn’t take any notes as I simply wanted to enjoy the event.  I got a little sample bottle of this stuff to revisit recently and it was time I did a little drinking.  It has been a while.  It was Thursday and that is as good a reason as any.  This particular sample of Caol Ila is yellow, light and pale.  The coal and traces of smoke are readily apparent in a pleasant, straightforward manner. The coal is fresh on the tongue and with a mild peat accompaniment.  (One thing I love about whisky is the potential for novel flavor combination and the ability to experience a flavor such as ‘fresh coal’.)  Decently viscous.  Traces of something sweet sneak about the coal and I dare say a lofty fruit note or two (probably from the Moscatel cask) find their way through a mix including light pepper.  A dusty hint-o-peat finish lingers.  A slightly reserved Caol Ila, an easy one to enjoy, and if one takes the time, a spirit not lacking in complexity.  Good to see that the second maturation didn’t overpower the whisky like some DE’s do.


Filed under Caol Ila, Whisky Impressions

Memory Lane

This is a lament for the passing of bars and a plea to those listening to run out and open new ones.  Fine.  It is about one bar in particular and I know you are reading and not listening… but I was writing in speech format, so work with me.  Or stop reading, drink a bit more, and come back to this article with a less pedantic attitude.  Back in the age of dinosaurs (actually it was only about six-or-so years ago) I was wandering through the lower-level of a Japanese department store (often a sprawling bazar of booths, glass cases and smartly uniformed employees plying everything from avatars of fruit to all manner of savory treat and more than a few selections of competition grade deserts) in Osaka and I stumbled upon a purveyor of liquor.  And that is not unusual.  This particular spot boasted, upon initial investigation, a decent selection of Scotch whiskies.  A little less common, but still not anything to write home about.  And then I noticed a bar positioned more or less in the middle of the sprawl of tables and bottles that gave way to other liquor stores, food sellers, and the components of the previously mentioned bazar.

This bar was an island.  An old-era counter top of little more than six feet, a single bartender in the black-and-whites (vest and bow-tie included), and a small but splendidly stocked wall of Scotch.  This standing bar (tachinomi) even had a small barrel of whisky on the brief but well-varnished expanse of wood (I later learned that one could fill a varying grade of classy little bottles, the shape and size of which I would associate more with an apothecary, from the barrel for take-home purposes).   I was entranced.  I approached, acknowledged the bartender, and I perused the menu.  I than spent a fair portion of the next three days on regular pilgrimages to the miniature mecca of whisky.  Seriously.  My schedule only really allowed me free time in the mornings, so that was where I spent them.

After eyeing the menu I realized that there was work to be done and not much time to do it in.  Notes from the back of one extant receipt: Glen Ord 12 – Caol Ila 12, 23, cask – Glenmorangie Burgundy, Hermitage – Glen Grant 1980 – Glenlivet 32 – Linkwood 26 – Bruichladdich 17 – Lagavulin 25 – Banff 1977 – Blair Athol 27 – Glen Albyn – Glenburgie – and, as the commercials say, many more…  There were repeats, there were items that didn’t make it onto the list, there were even a few on-the-fly vatted creations, and then there were some real pleasant lunches at nearby establishments.  Curiously, an appreciation for Glen Ord, and a few bottles of their 12-year, stayed with me long after the bar vanished (okay, maybe only the appreciation stayed with me long after).  But the bar did vanish.

One season, a few years later, I spent an eager train ride and a rushed walk through rushing crowds only to find the little outpost of majesty replaced by mundane shelves of liquor.  And that sucked.  And now more years and even more whisky have flowed under the bridge… and it still bums me out.  I always have my eyes out for these gems, often hidden away but occasionally found in the middle of a department store, awash in florescent light but not worse for it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bar Reviews, Caol Ila, Glen Grant, Imbibed Musings, Linkwood

End of the Week Mini Caol Ila Tasting

Caol Ila has always been one of my favorite distilleries. It has the peat and smoke that you associate with an Islay malt but there is more to the whisky than that. I usually associate a buttery flavor to Caol Ila. It also tends to be clean and refined not “too out there” in the flavor profile.

So I was in the Caol Ila mood today. This might have to do with the young 8 year old Caol Ila that I just got from Japan thatwas  bottled exclusively for a department store there. See my earlier post for the unique bottle. Additionally I just received a sample of Scott’s Selection 1984 Caol Ila from my good friend Dara.  Untasted Caol Ila’s and Friday…no better time to drink!

I was joined by fellow whiskwall contributor Nate for the festivities. Nate should be posting his notes shortly as well.  We decided to start with the Scott’s Selection due to it’s age – more flavors to pick up versus the young 8 y/o.

Scott’s Selection Caol Ila Distilled in 1984 bottled at 53%

Color – Light yellow

Nose – Big wafts of sweet peat, a little smoke, burnt embers, ashy, an organic sweetness – honey and butter scotch, oranges are in there too.

Palate – Surprising amounts of smoke and embers (more than the nose would reveal), wet rocks, the distinct Caol Ila flavor that I identify as butter or butter scotch, oak, tree bark, slightly bitter.

Finish – long and peaty, the embers slowly eventually fade.

Great powerful Caol Ila – a big hitter and I love it at cask strength!

Moving on to the 8 y/o.  I do tend to like younger malts so I was really looking forward to this.

2000 Caol Ila bottled exclusively for Tokyu Department Store

Distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2008 at 59%

Color – Dull yellow

Nose – Shy and coy, you can make out the peat but its hidden, honey, a touch of mint, malt, very clean.

Palate – Soft at the initial point of attach then explodes with peat, malt, oak, again that tell tale buttery flavor, slightly creamy, cardboard, can tell that it is still very young, not all that complex.

Finish – fairly short, fades fast on peat.

I enjoyed both, but it was a pretty unfair fight I think.  The 8 year old was simply over matched.  The Scott’s Selection had more complexity and punch to it.  It might be one of my favorite Caol Ila’s I have tried.  It didn’t surpass the Whisky Shop’s 24 year old private bottling though.  For notes/reviews on some of  Caol Ila’s standard OB releases check out Whisky Israel.

1 Comment

Filed under Caol Ila, Whisky Impressions

A Quick #Whisky Review Mackillop’s Choice Caol Ila 15

Independent bottler Lorne Mackillop’s 2005 bottling of Caol Ila.  Distilled in February 1990.  Aged 15 years in oak

Mackillop's Choice Caol Ila

cask.  Bottled at 43%.

N: Hint of smoke, peat, butterscotch, apple/pear?

P: Soft, lighter than I expected, def. taste the peat, not much smoke to it, buttery, tongue coating, a little bitter on the tail.

F: Numbing, a little short.

Comments:  A very delicate Caol Ila. Very refined.  You really get a glimpse of the flavors of Caol Ila beyond the smoke.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caol Ila, Whisky Impressions