Back in 2016 when I bought two sizable samples of this, I wasn’t overly impressed. I don’t remember why and I don’t remember what I expected. However, it made me forget sample number two until recently, when I could try it again, with only slight reluctance.
That reluctance, however, turned out to be a good thing, since I went in a tad skeptical, and with an inquisitive mindset. This whisky warrants inquisition.
The insanely high ABV, especially for the age, has most likely to do with the fact that Caol Ila used to fill casks at a much higher than usual ABV around 1980, because the industry was in decline and casks were expensive. So, no 63.5% filling strength, but most likely to be slightly over 70%. The 60.1% after 34 years is still very high, but at least slightly less surprising.
Quite smoky, but very light in character. Milky, with a bit of petrol and smoke. Lots of brine and dries herbs. Surprisingly gentle on the nose.
Very dry and a lot of heat from the alcohol. Smoky, coastal but again, light in character. Quite some American oak, and after a while the heat really kicks in. Herbs, smoke, cigarettes, fuel, brine, oak, barley, moss.
A quickly mellowing finish, with a lovely warmth. Brine, smoke, oak and barley. Hints of cream, engine oil, petrol, vanilla and moss.
This is quintessential Caol Ila, albeit a bit more gentle in regards to flavors than usual, with a high ABV that causes a slight mismatch. However, when properly sitting down for this and giving it time and attention, this is a tremendous dram in every possible way.
The combination of the milky scents with diesel fumes make for what I consider to be the essence and core of Caol Ila. On top of that there’s a lot more happening and that makes for a very worthy journey. Stunning stuff! I should’ve gotten a bottle…
Caol Ila 34yo, 1982-2016, 2 Bourbon Hogsheads, 60.1%.