We’ve got some Caol Ila today. It’s the largest distillery on Islay, pumping out the good stuff for them to cram into Johnnie Walker. But sometimes there’s too much of it, or they don’t need it, or it doesn’t fit into the flavour profile or a company has filling contracts for it.
So they sell it. Quite a bit of it actually, because they can afford to and because they can. So if you see a mystery Islay, there normally isn’t a huge amount of mystery behind it and its Caol Ila. And remember, Caol Ila is hugely versatile and can taste like Laphroaig or Lagavulin if it wants to. So, some sneaky people imply that it’s a more prestigious distillery but most industry insiders know exactly what it is…
These aren’t those mystery’s though. Nope. These are clearly labelled and deliciously matured by two good indie bottlers that seem to know what they’re doing.
Caol Ila 2004 Hermitage Finish 45%
Colour: Redish Amber
Nose: Memories of the Ledaig Hermitage but less intense, funky, meaty smoke, herbal notes and creamy raspberry.
Taste: Soft, sweet, little smoke but red berries, cranberry, some herbal notes in there, the red wine has really softened it actually. Some peppery spice.
Finish: Short/Medium length. Very little here, small berries, a little more smoke than the palate.
3 year Hermitage finish was perhaps a little too long? Not enough to Caol Ila to it and the wine has really shot the finish.
Caol Ila 1991 Cooper's Choice 46%
Nose: Old Laphroaig, tropical fruit and dusty peat with sooty undertones, mango and lemon, quite soft, there's a little biscuit. Quite quiet as old Caol Ila often is at first. Some more maritime notes as it opens up with dried seaweed and more oak then also floral notes.
Taste: Soft and textured, lovely oily malt, lemon and some pineapple, then cinnamon, very old Laphroaig-like, sooty, nice strength, excellent balance. Florals underneath with dry oak, Parma Violets, almost old Bowmore like as it develops.
Finish: Long length. Lots of soot, much more earthy with creamy heather and some slight medicinal notes.
Refill butt, bottled 2016 at 25yo. Wonderful example of older Caol Ila and, as I said, when it wants to, Caol Ila can taste like any of the other Islay distilleries.
Thanks for reading!
Scotch Reviews #709-#710
Whisky Network Reviews #846-#847
Network Average: 75.1
Best Score: 94
Worst Score: 12
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good
Full Disclosure 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, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. You can find more on my scoring here. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and I am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and I am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.