While I don’t mind people taking credit for what they’ve done, or in this case picked from the available options, however, calling something you did yourself is kind of presumptuous. However, I should have bought last year’s Clynelish since it’s supposed to be awesome. Also, even it’s it only ‘really good’ an 18 year old Clynelish is nothing to scoff at.
This bottle was released at this year’s Whisky Show in early October, and has since sold out. I was opting to buy a retro label Caol Ila, but when I spotted this one still being available two weeks ago, I picked this one instead.
It comes in a slightly clunky bottle but the wax seal and the label look rather nice. Of course, what counts is on the other side of the glass. But beauty is supposedly in the eye of the beholder, and even though I don’t have a clue what one of those Dungeons and Dragons monsters has to do with it, the saying talks about the eye and not the palate. I guess it also (apart from the official meaning) means that that’s the first sense that has to be pleased.
The smoke is huge at the first sniff, but also strangely ‘fresh’. There’s a hint of vanilla behind the smoke and the oak, and also shows hints of green herbs like parsley, chive, rosemary and I think I even get a hint of basil. The more conformist flavors of Caol Ila like salt, sand and basalt are here too.
The palate is sharp and not too intense at first. Syrupy with vanilla but not sugary. The alcohol is noticeable and brings some heat. There’s oak and it becomes quite dry after the syrup and vanilla. It’s also rather peppery. I think I should have said creamy instead of syrupy, which would fit Caol Ila.
The finish is warming with a light vanilla and the classical Caol Ila flavors of salt and smoke, with oak, cream. The herbs from the nose become more spicy, and the finish is rather long.
If you like Caol Ila, and you got one of those bottles, you’re in for a treat. It’s an absolutely gorgeous example of the Islay distillery. It’s big on the smoke but the cream and herbs are rather quintessential, and balanced very well.
It boils down to this being a very, very good whisky and it ranks very highly in my favorites of the year, along a couple others of course. I have a hard time expressing how much I like this whisky. Unfortunately, I got only half a bottle, I should have gotten two, just for me. Or three.
The name Masterpiece is well earned.
Caol Ila 1996, 18yo, 62.2%, matured in a hogshead, 299 bottles, Masterpieces by Speciality Drinks Ltd. It used to cost £ 95 at The Whisky Exchange.