The youngest bottling from this year’s series of London Whisky Show exclusives comes in the form of a sherry matured 9 year old Caol Ila. But it’s potentially not just any sherry matured 9 year old Caol Ila. When the Whisky Exchange team were trawling through a sea of stacked casks, they noticed one which was stencilled with the name ‘Gonzalez & Byass’ – a name which sherry producer Gonzalez Byass (dropping the ‘&’) ceased trading under over a 100 years ago. Does this mean that the sherry cask is over 100 years old – well maybe, maybe not (things are filled and refilled for periods of time – some of which can be quite lengthy). But it’s certainly exceedingly old by modern standards and not a 'seasoned' cask which most distilleries now extensively utilise.
The bottling comes from cask #316104 and is bottled at 58.7% ABV. 308 bottles have been produced and will cost £84.95.
Nose: Vibrant fruitiness from green apples, lemon zest and a scattering of red berries is joined by ashy peat smoke. Hewn granite, beach pebbles and sea shells sit with asphalt, burning vegetation and dried cracked earth. In the background, savoury aromas – salt crust pasty, suet, and maple bacon. Reduction reinforces both earthiness with clay and meatiness with honey-roasted ham, whilst adding some rubber funkiness.
Taste: Viscous, with plump fruitiness and impactful smoke which steadily builds throughout the development. Toffee apples, pear juice and lime-packed margaritas lead off, followed by smouldering leaf mulch, moss and ferns. Smoke rolls in like a wave with brick charcoal, hearth ashes and a quick swipe of antiseptic cream. The mid-palate favours more patisserie sweetness with pain au chocolate and cacao powder sitting with peppery oakiness. The addition of water is all about meatiness – BBQ ribs, burnt ends and reduced stock – equal parts sweet and savoury.
Finish: Quite long with smoked orchard fruits and crushed red berries.
Despite its relative youth, this Caol Ila shows wonderful interplay between its inherently powerful spirit character and a fruity and sweet cask influence. The combination is not only surprisingly drinkable at 58.7%, but also nuanced – offering a memorable journey through a variety of shades of sweet into peat. The fact that this also takes reduction well is another string to its bow.
Review sample provided by The Whisky Exchange.