Caol Ila 1978 Spirit of Scotland

Posted 08 August 2018 by Matt / In Caol Ila
The Dramble reviews Caol Ila 1978 Gordon and MacPhail (Spirit of Scotland)

Bottle Name: Caol Ila 1978 bottled in 1990s

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail (Spirit of Scotland)
Region: Islay

This Caol Ila is a little bit mysterious – I cannot find any information on a 1978 Spirit of Scotland release whatsoever. My sample is simply labelled as ‘bottled in the 90s’ – looking at other Caol Ila Spirit of Scotland releases (including the 1981 – of which I’ve repurposed a bottle photo seeing as I can’t find anything of the 78s existence), they seem to vary in age. Recent bottlings have been between 7 and 12 years of age, however bottlings produced around the turn of the millennium are older at between 15 and 17 years. It’s therefore not too much of a stretch to posit that this 1978 is likely to have been bottled around 1993-1995 and is therefore likewise between 15 and 17 years old.

Nose: Out of the bottle, this is quite unusual – stewed plums and homemade lemonade meet coal dust. Underlying earthiness is reinforced with dried hay and a hint of farmyard. Running throughout, gentle minerality and dried orange peels. It’s an aroma set that feels somewhat typical of this distillery, but at the same time delivered in a slightly different form. Resting provides greater coherence and perhaps more distillery character – citrus peels, lightly smoked seafood and bisque and some golden maltiness.

Taste: A surprisingly full arrival for just 40% ABV – there’s both oiliness and weight – very good. Fruitiness is up first – orange segments, tinned pineapples and plenty of citrus zest. There’s no initial hit of peat, this comes during the development and is semi-ashy, semi-medicinal – rock dust, sand, surface cleaner and a tinge of iodine. In the back palate, chiselled minerality – a hewn limestone wall – as well as plenty of ever souring lemons. Resting is again time well spent – it allows the palate to relax and deliver much more of a coastal profile – cloudy billowing maritime smoke, salt and brine.

Finish: Medium and fairly dry. This has plenty of citrus and steeliness alongside a tinge of ashy coastal/medicinal smoke.

This Caol Ila does not totally follow the obvious aroma and flavour path that you’d expect from this distillery. All the elements are present, but the overall composition is slightly altered and only really recognisable in tail end of the palate and finish. As such, this makes for a rather interesting and analytical experience, whilst being perfectly tasty at the same time. This 1978 is, to coin a phrase, a grow-er not a show-er.

With thanks to Billy Abbott (@cowfish) for the sample.

Score: 85/100

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