Caol Ila 1981-2011, 61.7% – Scott’s Selection

1981 Caol Ila. Apart from me being born in that year, and my wife as well, some other fairly great things happened too. One of the things that interest me most is the vast amount of awesome Caol Ila that was distilled then.

Two years later the whisky loch had gotten so big that a lot of distilleries were closed due to whisky not being sold at all. Luckily Caol Ila survived and for a long time, also because of there being so much, 1980s Caol Ila was quite affordable. Compared to many other distillates from that era, it still is.

Scott’s Selection is a bottler that’s been around for a while, but a few years ago there was talk that they closed up shop. I’m not sure what happened, but I’ve seen them at festivals since, so you’d expect them to still be a thing.

Another thing I’ve heard is that, because of a shortage in casks in the 1970s (and early eighties) some distilleries filled their cask at a much higher ABV than the normal 63.5%. Supposedly, Caol Ila was one of them, and this being at 61.7% after thirty years indicates that that is highly likely.


Image from WhiskyBase

Slightly acidic smoke on the nose, but in a very, very good way. Salty, smooth and old. Shammy leather with old lemon. Some old, weathered oak too.

The palate is very, very dry and quite sharp (not surprising at almost 62% ABV (after three decades!). Lots of ‘old’ flavors. Old smoke, old peat and soil. Salty, some moss, and a slightly oily texture.

The finish is long and smooth. That shammy leather again, with oak and brine. A texture of oiliness or cream remains, with a machine like smoke. Maybe a hint of diesel?

This is an interesting dram. It brings the old Port Ellen flavors of lemon and shammy leather, but it also brings the texture and diesel-y smoke of Caol Ila. Those flavors combined might not be everybody’s friend, but it makes me remember why I love Caol Ila so much.

The ABV is incredible, but it does also bring some depth to the whisky as it gives some room to play with water. I didn’t think it was necessary to do so, though. An excellent pick by Scott (and his Selection).


Caol Ila 1981-2011, 61.7%, Scott’s Selection.


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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