Disclaimer: I currently work as a Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, I have never accepted free samples from anyone in the whisky industry, but have bought bottles or samples with my money, bringing a different set of biases. Also, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. -1st Edition of this so feel free to suggest things to add/change.
Phew, now that’s out the way.
Today I’ve got two Hunter Laing Caol Ila’s from 1996. Caol Ila is the biggest of the Islay distilleries and you can find my visit to the distillery here. Hunter Laing is an independent bottler, separate now from Douglas Laing who have their own thing. Their Old malt Cask range is pretty famous for bottling some epic 1970’s Ardbeg back in the day but is still bringing out some gems. Like these.
Standing in The Whisky Shop in Guildford, England, I always want to buy stuff and support it but it’s just a bit overpriced. So I was looking for something unique. An amber coloured Caol Ila caught my eye, butit was expensive. A £125 I wasn’t willing to gamble. Asking to try it, the (very nice) lady told me she didn’t have a sample of that one but a previous bottling from a Bourbon hogshead.
Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: A very peaty Caol Ila. Peat smoke, bonfire smoke, a medicinal edge with cough sweets, creamy vanilla, sea salt.
Taste: Earthy and a little oily, very creamy and chewy with vanilla and salted toffee. Peat smoke, bonfire smoke, medicinal cough sweets again. Great mouthfeel and balance.
Finish: Medium/Long length. Creamy and peaty.
Distilled Sept 1996, bottled March 2014. 17 year old from a Bourbon Hogshead 10387. Very impressed with this, enough to buy the Sherry hogshead version.
Caol Ila 1996 Old Malt Cask (refill Sherry Hogshead) 50%
Nose: A little closed at first. Tasting notes are bang on. Vanilla custard! A lot of it, behind there is fruitiness, fresh and dried, peach, apricot, raisin, prune, date, biscuity malt. Oily smoke coming through, Ardbeggian.
Water: More expressive. More of the fresh fruity side, peach, dried peach, Ambrosia custard. More obviously Islay after a bit with more smoke, soot, earth, rubber and malt. Smoked kippers!
Taste: Soft arrival, vanilla custard again, biscuity malt, oily peat coming in, lifting citrus, orange, lovely!, lemon juice, sooty, oily, engine oil, going more dirty, god it's great, damp peat, peaty malt, a little oak throughout. Really sings into the finish!
Water: Softer, lime zest, candied lime, candied orange peel, a little spiciness building from the oak, light white pepper, creamy custard, growing more oily then lovely olive oil and lime juice into the finish.
Finish: Long length. Very oily, mouth coating, engine oil and peaty malt. Lovely.
September 1996-October 2015. 19 year old Sherried Ardbeg? Laphroaig? It's believable. A lovely Caol Ila from an incredible barrel.
Thanks for reading!
Network Average: 74.4
Best Score: 92
Worst Score: 44
60-64 Just about OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good