Since the theme of the first bit of 2017 is to get through a boat load of samples, here’s two in one go. Both are from Caol Ila distillery on the eastern shore of Islay, and both are from 2007. The biggest difference is the alcohol percentage. One is bottled at a drinking strength of 46%, while the other sits at a slightly higher cask strength of 51.2. The last one is surprisingly low in alcohol for an eight year old whisky.
My approach for these two whiskies is a bit two faced. On one hand I recently found out, while tasting some Islay whiskies, that I’ve not gotten tired of peaty drams and I thoroughly love them if they’re done well. On the other hand there are way too many young Islay whiskies on the market as we speak. It’s incredibly hard for one to stand out from the crowd since the numbers are huge and the vast majority of these whiskies is good, but not exceptional.
On the nose this one is surprisingly heavy, with an oily sense to it, and quite a lot of thick smoke. Quite green, forest-like with ferns and underbrush. Some apple, grains and wood. The palate is gentle, as expected from 46%, with quite a lot of fresh oak. It’s rich and dry with oak and barley. Gentle smoke, apple peels and apple cores. The finish focuses more on the smoke, but is gentle. Grains and oak, and it lasts quite long.
Interesting and completely to expectation. A good whisky, but not one that stands out from the crowd. I do like that this is bottled at a lower strength, contrary to what’s popular at the moment. It gives room to more flavor notes to come through.
This one is slight more fatty with buttery vanilla custard on the nose. A slight focus on the barley, not unlike an apple crumble with custard. Some smoke and oak, with a crisp note hiding behind it all. Leafy greens and some sugary sweetness. The palate is slightly sharper, but not overly so. It’s quite dry and sweet, again with the vanilla and crumble pastry. The finish starts very sharp but mellows to a more nicely warming level. Rich with lots of flavor. It’s pretty long with barley, oak and smoke.
This one is comparable to the previous one, but still different enough to be interesting to taste side by side. There’s a bit more focus on the cask instead of on the spirit, with some vanilla notes. It’s also slightly sweeter.
The biggest difference between those two whiskies is that the Whisky Exchange one goes for little under 70 euros, while the Beacon Spirits one goes for 95. That’s a pretty big difference and that would by my main concern when choosing between these two drams.If you prefer cask strength whiskies, I suggest shelling out for the Belgian bottling, since the 46% one is surprisingly gentle, even for a 46% one.
Still, both are very solid drams and deliver exactly what you expect from young Caol Ila.
Thanks to both The Whisky Exchange and Beacon Spirits for these whiskies! I quite enjoyed them!