Familiarity can be reassuring. I’ve not been able to review an outturn for five months and yet here I am greeted by the habitual sighting of Caol Ila. This month’s – an 11 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon barrel.
Nose: Smoked lemon tea and briny water sits with green peppers, swirling wood smoke and tangible chalkiness – a combination of Andrew’s liver salts and crushed aspirin. In the background, vague cooked crustaceans and copper coins. Dilution exposes more expected ashiness and fireplace cues together with quince jelly and battered cod served in newspaper.
Taste: Oily, full and rich and walking the well-trodden path of sweet into peat. Apple, greengage and lime juice sits with greenhouse vines, white chocolate and steadily building mentholated smoke oakiness. Lemon cubes and barley water come in the mid-palate which also offers salty sea water, polystyrene cement and spent campfire. Water retains the power of the spirit whilst introducing citric sharpness and tartness alongside a seafood bisque.
Finish: Medium with lemon infused tea alongside candy canes, coal dust and granite.
The nose of this Caol Ila feels a little restrained – especially compared to the palate which offers a punchy, full-flavoured experience. Solid stuff, but then #53 usually is.