Caol Ila has always been a favorite of mine. There are terrific whiskies from this Islay distillery, but mostly it is because this is the whisky with which my fascination truly kicked off.
I bought my first bottle of Caol Ila 18 at De Whiskykoning after I had gone through some Glenfiddichs and was really blown away by the depth and massive flavor it has. After that I didn’t really collect them, but I was never without Caol Ila. Even now I have quite some of this distillery’s bottling open on my shelf and most of them are pretty awesome.
This 30 year old came out in 2010 and was ridiculously cheap, as was the main USP for the Bladnoch Forum bottlings. At the same time, the first 30 year old Port Askaig was released by The Whisky Exchange. A lot of comparison was done between the two and I believe the general consensus was that the Port Askaig was slightly better, albeit more expensive too.
Back then this THIRTY YEAR OLD Caol Ila cost some 80 quid. Keep in mind that in those days a Pound Sterling was worth as much as a Euro. In those days The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and all other British web shops sold massive amounts to Europe since it was very affordable for us to order across the pond. But anyway, 80 euros for a 30 year old whisky. That was some deal.
Oh, on a side note. The Bladnoch Forum has since ceased it’s bottling operation. This has been nicely taken over by The Whisky Broker, who now released very affordable bottlings from all kinds of distilleries, as well as selling casks of spirit. The Whisky Broker is run by Martin Armstrong, the son of (former?) distillery manager Raymond Armstrong of Bladnoch Distillery.
It’s warm and smoky, ashy even. Gentle, with lots of fruit. Apples, ripe galia melon. Also the more typical Islay flavors or grass, salt and heather. The typical Caol Ila milkiness is present too.
The palate is surprisingly peppery, with smoke, vanilla cream and salt. It’s quite a bit sharper than the nose suggests but there is a lot less oak than you’d expect from a 30 year old. Some wood spices too.
The finish is rather long, dry and spicy. The oak is a little bit more present here and the smoke is toned down a little.
While this might not be the best Caol Ila ever, and it’s even a little simple compared to the older official bottlings and more expensive indies (think Berry’s and such) it’s still a pretty good whisky. It’s showing its age well, without being too woody. The spices and fruit are nicely balanced and the smoke never overpowers the other flavors.
All in all, a rather lovely dram. One that I had kind of forgotten and only a couple of glasses had been gone from the bottle in four years. I’m thinking this might not last too long now.
Caol Ila 30, 1980-2010, 53.3%, Bourbon Hogshead, Bladnoch Forum. Now worth some € 120