ABV: 61.3% Distillery: Caol Ila Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Region: Islay
A tough choice of colour-coding for this Caol Ila. Whilst it is undeniably coastal, it’s also still quite peaty. So blue or green? SMWS have chosen blue this time around, for a 9 year old matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
Nose: Intensely coastal and packed full of salty water, seafood, and meaty smoke. There’s certainly a sense of sweet scallops here – but one could also add some lobster bisque and bouillabaisse into the mix. Likewise, this is not without a meaty side – honey-roasted ham and reduced beef stock. The protein-driven flavours marry perfectly with a maritime smoke that feels very natural (and integrated) – partly like the seafood and meats have sat in smoker for a few hours – partly like you’re then consuming them in a seaside cabin with a log fire roaring. These deep flavours are lifted by both salinity (a pinch of salt, a rock pool and some wet beach slate) and sweet fruits – red apples and sour lemons. With water, the smoke becomes a touch more ashy and sweetness is heightened with candied citrus peels.
Taste: Salty and briny – fish stock, oysters and you might as well throw in a pot of winkles and cockles and a reduced meat sauce whilst you’re at it. Caramel coated apples, lemons and baked goods prevent this drifting too far out to sea. Smoking is tarry with just a touch of medicinalness to it – wood fire, burning pipe tobacco and hospital floors. Reduced the emphasis is somewhat shifted to a fruitiness with both orchard (apple and pear) and stone (peach) fruits playing their part. The smoke is not diminished, but it does become more dusty and chalky.
Finish: Long, with sweet peat, salt and plenty of surf and turf.
This Caol Ila is an outstanding example of sweet vs. peat vs. salt. Whilst I initially questioned the panel’s decision to not categorise this somewhere within the green (peated) flavour profile spectrum, I can totally see why they’ve stuck to Oily & Coastal. This is an incredibly maritime whisky packed full of coastal flavour, balance and intriguing nuance. My pick of this month and highly recommended. No, wait, what am I saying – it’s terrible – don’t buy it….OK fine, but at least leave a bottle for me! Fantastic stuff.
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