Door No.2 reveals a youthful 6 year old Caol Ila. Bottled at 52.2% and deceptively pale in colour.
Nose: We’re immediately greeted with sour and sharp lemons, melted butter, vanilla and an assortment of maritime peatiness. Smoked fish, buttered oysters and some coastal air are joined by a slight underlying meatiness which develops after the whisky is rested for a short while – ham. Smoked ham. Rather festive in fact. The addition of water heightens the maritime aspects with increased salinity but at the same time diminishes some of the zing of the lemons and smoke.
Taste: A fairly oily mouthfeel that presents more overt smoke than the nose, but still translates well. Buttered toast, kippers, iodine, a slight tinge of tobacco smoke. Peat is less sour, more sweet and is joined by pine needles, toffee apples, lemon and pepper. There’s a mineral quality to this whisky – steely. Water reduces the oiliness and makes for a more juicy orchard fruit led experience – rather different in both structure and flavour.
Finish: Initially short, but both resting and a splash of water greatly increase the length. Mineral salts, citrus and coastal smoke.
Today’s Caol Ila is straight-forward and maritime focussed. The short time in cask presents as a lack of overall complexity, but with this, the inherent quality of the distillery spirit is allowed to shine – fresh, clearly defined, peaty and mineral.