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Caol Ila Distillery Island of Islay Scotland Whisky from 100 to 200 euros

Caol Ila 18yo Unpeated 2017

Review of a special and unusually unpeated Caol Ila.

Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Gradation: 59.8%ABV
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon
Chillfiltered: No
Added coloring: Yes
Owner: Diageo
Average price: € 120.00
Official website: www.malts.com
Vote: 84/100

An unpeated Caol Ila, and an old one at that… ow, what an oddity!
The origin of this edition of the Islay classic goes back to a difficult period for all Scotch whisky, those 1980s that decimated many distilleries in the midst of a crisis in the sector.
Diageo gave (and still gives) producers from its extensive portfolio to create its blends, and the massive closure of distilleries in the Highlands put the supply of one of the main ingredients in serious difficulty.
And so, a stroke of genius: have one of their classically peaty distilleries produce a certain amount of whisky without the island smokiness, namely Caol Ila.

And since nothing is ever thrown away, when the emergency passed and the barrels were already there, it was decided to maintain this alternative to the classic Caol Ila by creating a special, limited annual edition, which since 2006 has been different each time, in terms of ageing, the barrels used and the alcohol content.
In detail, the editions to date have been:
2006 – 8yo in ex-Bourbon first fill at 59.8%.
2007 – 8yo in ex-Bourbon first fill at 64.9%.
2008 – 8yo in ex-Bourbon first fill at 64.2%.
2009 – 10yo in ex-Bourbon first fill at 65,8%.
2010 – 12yo in ex-Bourbon first fill at 57.6%.
2011 – 12yo in ex-Bourbon first fill at 64%.
2012 – 14yo in ex-European casks at 59,3%.
2013 – 12yo in ex-Bodega refill rejuvenated at 59.6% (called Stitchell Reserve)
2014 – 15yo in ex-Bourbon first fill at 60.39%.
2015 – 17yo in ex-Bourbon at 55.9%.
2016 – 15yo in ex-Bourbon at 61.5%.
2017 – 18yo in hoghshead ex-Bourbon refill at 59.8%.
2018 – 15yo in hoghshead ex-Bourbon and European at 59.1%.

Tasting notes

Surprising to come across a Caol Ila with such a gentle, herbaceous and fruity nose. Warm and inviting, with vanilla cream pie, fruit (mango, peach, kiwi), fresh flowers, cut grass. Slight hint of wet wood in the background.
If the nose was not noticeable, the alcoholic power on the palate is explosive, a cannonade of burning shortcrust pastry that you have to get used to a bit, which gives way to citrus notes with vanilla and cinnamon. Generally refractory to the addition of water, I find myself having to do so because of the really important aggressiveness of the alcohol, being rewarded by a widening of the aromatic horizon, with the release of ripe fruit (peach and banana), malt, custard and liquorice. And an impression, but really an impression, of peat in the background.
Long finish of cream cake, liquorice, wood and always that peat feeling.

If it weren’t for the slightly off-centre alcohol content I’d have given it a few more points. As I’ve already said elsewhere, if the bottler chooses a certain alcohol content for his whisky, that’s what I have to compare myself with in order to understand whether or not it meets my taste, so for me having to add water is a flaw.
Anyway, it’s an unusual and pleasant dram, a “fake highlander” that doesn’t manage to totally hide its true identity.

Reviews of Caol Ila whisky in the blog:
A&G Rare Cask Selection Caol Ila 10yo
Cadenhead’s Caol Ila 30yo
Caol Ila 12yo
Caol Ila 18yo
Caol Ila Distillers Edition 2018
Caol Ila Moch
Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength
Càrn Mòr Vertical
Chapter 7 Monologue Caol Ila 2012
Dramfool Cola Ali 4
Dramfool Cola Ali 5
Dream N°2
Golden Drops Caol Ila 8yo
Gordon&MacPhail Reserve Caol Ila 2008
Morisco Spirits Caol Ila 11yo
Signatory Caol Ila 1994 Port Wood Finish
The Islay Star 11yo
Valinch & Mallet Caol Ila 11yo
Wilson & Morgan Caol Ila 2008-2020 Quercus Alba

Other perspectives:
The Scotch Noob

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