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86/100 Whisky Base

Man of Many '21 Best Scotch Whisky Brands - 2020' N#12

Jacob Osborne, Man of Many '21 Best Scotch Whisky Brands - 2020' "Why did we put Caol Ila on the list? Because we’re all about that smoke, ’bout that smoke. We know it’s an acquired taste, but we still think less of you if you don’t like it. Just kidding—we have nothing against all you peat-haters out there. Everyone else, start picking up what this long-running Scotch whisky brand is throwing down. You’ll be glad you did."

The Dramble "......shows wonderful interplay between its inherently powerful spirit character and a fruity and sweet cask influence. The combination is not only surprisingly drinkable at 58.7%, but also nuanced – offering a memorable journey through a variety of shades of sweet into peat. The fact that this also takes reduction well is another string to its bow." 

In Search Of Elegance "Great nose. Dense smoke, toffee, cinnamon, lemon, and smoke are so nicely balanced. The smoke is so prevalent, front and centre…just awesome. We also have some nice farmy and medicinal characteristics – no surprise there. And some younger notes, and unique ones, like pancake batter and freshly blanched broccoli, nearly undercooked. The palate is smoky, slightly citrusy, with more toffee, vanilla, woodsmoke, mulberries, white pepper, and blueberry bushes. Nice and ashy. The finish is lightly smoky, with some pickled lemon, malty notes, clove, cardboard, and maltesers. Caol Ila distillate, relatively pure. Nicely done!" "long, generous. At the start of the finish, the peat takes on chocolate and vanilla tones, as grains of salt spread across the palate. Mouth-watering, it becomes increasingly rich (flan, éclair) and herbal (chamomile, mint). Gradually, clove, black truffle and notes of coal set the pace for a very richly expressed end to the palate. Tobacco and white florals (lily, lily of the valley) mark the retro-nasal olfaction with their enchanting perfumes. The empty glass is saturated with smoke, ash and tarry fragrances."

Whisky "It’s a solid young peated Islay alright, with everything one comes to expect from a 7-year-old Caol Ila, bourbon cask (yes, it’s very light)."

Will Blakely, K & L "For fans of Islay, Caol Ila should be a consistent feature in a well-stocked cabinet. This bottling is a singular example - an unadulterated expression of everything the distillery has to offer. The peat here is perfectly integrated, combining smoky mesquite wood, sea air and mossy earth. There is a subtle sweetness, with green fruit and vanilla wafting above a firm structure. A dose of water reveals further depth, with iodine and herbs entering the smoky fray balanced by ocean brine and a hint of lime essential oil. The flavors here are indelible and inseparable. An exquisitely expressive dram."

An intriguing bottling of Caol Ila from Hunter Laing's Old Malt Cask range. This one is a 9-year-old expression, distilled in September 2009 and left to mature in a wine cask until February 2019, when it was bottled with an outturn of 385 bottles.

Nose - A mixture of peat smoke and strawberry jam, shortly joined by a touch of chocolate biscuit.

Palate - More peat, now with some leafy tobacco hints too. Greengages, smoke, orange boiled sweeties, and rose.

Finish - Salinity lingers of the finish.

Caol Ila was founded to the North of Islay in 1846 by the pleasingly-named Hector Henderson. It is located near Port Askaig and sits in lush, floral surroundings, overlooking the cove and the Paps of southern Jura. The distillery draws its water from Loch Nam Ban, whose waters travel through limestone and peat before reaching their beneficiary, Caol Ila.

From 1999, unpeated single malts have been experimented with and in 2006 the first unpeated bottling was released in the form of an eight-year-old. Caol Ila, whose name derives from the Gaelic for ‘Sound of Islay’, has been included in the Diageo Classic Malts range, exhibiting twelve and eighteen-year-old expressions as well as a Moscatel-finished Distillers Edition. Independent bottlings can also be found.