Boutique-y Advent 2021 – Door 15

Posted 16 December 2021 by Matt / In Caol Ila
The Dramble reviews Boutique-y Islay #1 10 year old Batch 3

Bottle Name: Islay No.1 Batch 3

ABV: 47.9%
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company
Region: Islay Age: 10
Glass Weight: 500g

Of Islay’s roughly 22 million litres of pure alcohol produced each year by 9 distilleries, Caol Ila is responsible for around a third. Indeed, at 6.5 million LPA, Caol Ila sits as the 9th largest capacity distillery within Scotland and the biggest peated producer by a near 50% over its closest capacity rival (Ardmore). And as such, operating at this scale means that bottlings of Caol Ila and bottlings which contain Caol Ila (as part of a wider blend) are a common occurrence. And yet, I never seem to tire of them.

I’ve written at length on The Dramble about the quality of Caol Ila’s spirit many times over the years, (you'll find plenty of gushing praise within our listings for the distillery) – the essence being that if you’ve somehow managed to bottle a bad Caol Ila, that you’ve most certainly fucked up. But, whilst it would be easy to take a view that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing – I see the frequency of Caol Ila releases from indy bottlers, as something akin to a close and reliable friend who is always welcome in my house.

Of course, there’s something to be said about adventurous dramming – new distilleries, new casks, new flavour experiences. But there’s also something to be said about faithfulness. And as much as I still approach whiskies with trepidation and anticipation, I also still appreciate the notion that ‘another Caol Ila’ will, 9 times out of 10 be a delightful thing to my palate.

The consistency of the spirit is different from the consistency of a world-available blend, or a mass-produced single malt. It does not taste monolithic and unchanging across every bottle. However, its common profile threads of minerality, medicinal peat smoke and lemon seem able to be reshaped into near endless configurations – maintaining that ever-recognisable Caol Ila character, and yet still offering depths to explore and nuances to unpick at the same time. It’s incredibly clever, far from replicable across most distilleries, and I doubt I will ever grow bored of its predictable level of versatility.

Boutique-y’s Islay #1 Batch 3 is one of the bottler’s least obscure mystery labelling’s. A coal mine and some garlic (“ail” in French) feature – so I’ve got no qualms about slotting this into our distillery listings where it belongs. The release is a smaller one – just 534 bottles (so likely 2 casks vatted) delivered at 47.9%. As a littler release, and older release – sometime end of 2018, this one seems long sold out, but was originally priced at £54.95.   

Both Sorren at OCD Whisky and Brian at Brian's Malt Musings are undertaking the 24 days of Boutique-y this year – so after you’re done here, go check them out for some alternative views.

Nose: Immediate sooty smoke – but quite crystalline with an accompaniment of limestone, minerals and salinity. Damp soils sit with oyster juice whilst touches of lemon and lime provide a sweet lift alongside sugar candy. Running alongside – an expected medicinal vein – bandages, surface wipes and pickled root vegetable. Reductions presents pine needles together with gingerbread men.

Taste: Chiselled. Hewn granite and rock salt alongside lamp and lemon oils. The peat influence billows stronger now with ash and tar wafting over a tinned fruit salad whilst surface cleaner, squid ink and iodine sit together with wet earth, clay and building pepperiness. Dilution makes for a particularly juicy dram – more fruit forward and with antiseptic and candy necklaces.

Finish: Long with sweet, mentholated oak and persistent salty sea breeze.

The tangible sense of coastalness that runs throughout Boutique-y’s Islay #1 Batch 3 really floats my boat. Whilst Caol Ila is often composed of a trifecta of minerality, medicinal peat and lemon – here the former takes a firmer grip on proceedings, resulting in some scalpel-sharp moments.

Score: 85/100


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