Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing cask: Ex-Entre-Deux-Mers barrique
Additional coloring: No
Owner: Valinch & Mallet Ltd.
Average price: € 105.00
Official website: www.valinchandmallet.com
Of the four single casks that make up Valinch & Mallet’s The Peat(y)ful Pack Madness collection, this Caol Ila, distilled in 2011 and bottled in 2021, which spent most of its ten years of ageing in a French red wine barrique from the Bordeaux area (Entre-Deux-Mers refers to the area between the two rivers Garonne and Dordogne), is probably the most original and risky. Risky because the contribution of ex-wine casks is never easy to manage, and here we are not even talking about ageing for a few months.
On the other hand, with the birth and development overseas of many craft distilleries, today there are fewer and fewer ex-Bourbon casks arriving in Scotland, and in Europe the most widespread are ex-wine casks, which is why, little by little, we will have to learn how to use them in the best possible way. That’s according to Fabio “Valinch” Ermoli, a convinced “cat lover” immortalised with a certain spirit on the back label of the bottle by the artist Laurina Paperina.
Obviously natural colour and no chillfiltration for this whisky coming from cask no. 900053 and offered at 52.6% ABV in 374 bottles. Just for the sake of detail, ours is No. 14.
The colour is a fabulous bright amber.
Needless to say, the very first impression on the nose is vinous: a slight effluvium, however, no longer than a breath long. The characteristic peaty note of Caol Ila here is a discreet bonfire smoke in terms of intensity, marked by a hint of black pepper, accompanied by a memory of berries, currants and raspberries in particular, and an impression of balsamic vinegar that returns periodically. The nose plays on two planes, of smoke and sour fruit, which try to overlap without ever fully succeeding, thus generating a fascinating dynamism. While we are reminded of someone who, with a good dose of boorishness, has put out a cigarette on a strawberry, a hint of dark chocolate timidly raises its hand.
The mouthfeel is moderately peppery. Here, too, the whisky is a curious amalgam of smoke and sweeter aromas: a bowl of cream consumed in front of a bonfire on the beach, a king-size bucket of caramelised popcorn, a tub of absent-mindedly nibbled currants. The palate is enveloped by an overall sense of warmth, with the degree pushing the different scents together.
The finish is medium to long, with a wisp of smoke and sweet music in the background.
On the one hand, the uncertainty of such a peculiar maturation, on the other, the skill of those who know exactly when to bottle: Valinch & Mallet have always been resistant to banality (we remember their Bruichladdich 15yo Madeira Cask from a few years ago), but here they go one step further, managing to surprise us and win us over with every sip, with a unique and inimitable Caol Ila.