This is one of those samples of which I had totally forgotten it existed. Recently when we moved some furniture around I had to shift some boxes and decided to go through a bunch of samples. This is one of them. I don’t mind finding the odd Caol Ila from the early eighties.
In a way, this is whisky distilled in a period in which Caol Ila was trumping Port Ellen, according to Diageo’s predecessor. They decided to close Port Ellen in favor of Caol Ila, in any case. Of course, the fact that Caol Ila was a far newer plant with higher efficiency and more option for expansion will have had something to do with it.
I think I got this sample from GJR in a trade years ago. I also think it might have been swapped for some Bladnoch Forum samples of old Caol Ila. I used to have a 25 year old and a 30 year old from those guys. The 30 year old is nearing its end and I finished the 25 year old a couple of months ago.
The main things that hit me right away is salt, brine, heather and smoke. The brininess makes it almost fishy. There’s also some dryness and a hint of milk chocolate. Slightly milky and oily as I’d expect from Caol Ila. Gentle smoke, and quite Port Ellen like with hints of shammy leather and Napoleón lemon candy.
The palate is relatively sharp with white pepper, and dry shammy leather. A slight sweetness is here too, but it’s almost overpowered by the salty, sandy notes. An Islay beach, so to say. Some light bitter notes of coffee, old smoke, old Islay. Oily hints again.
The finish is long and a tad more simple. Smoke, heather, brine and classic Islay peatiness. Restrained peat at that.
I love old Islay whiskies. The restrained smoke, the lightness of it with the almost ‘Lowlands’ character behind all the salt and peat flavors is generally great. This is no exception.
In short, this is a great, great dram. It might not have the same fan base as Port Ellen, but Caol Ila is not a whisky to scoff at, especially from the early eighties or even older. I love this stuff. Also keep in mind that this stuff sells for far less than Port Ellen, especially from Indie bottlers.
Caol Ila 27, 1983-2011, 53.1%, 12/10/1983 – 21/03/2011, Hogshead #4819, Whiskybroker.co.uk