As every year, there’s a Caol Ila Feis Ile bottling. Even this year there are bottlings, even though there was no festival due to COVID-19.
Also as always, Diageo tries to come up with something they haven’t done before for these bottlings. This 10 year old, cask strength whisky was drawn from refill American hogsheads, and rejuvenated European oak butts.
There were almost 2500 bottles released and it’s currently available for £ 139. To my surprise this is fairly affordable, compared to many Feis Ile bottlings.
The mix of casks makes me expect a fairly spirit driven whisky. Two types of casks, but both types are not first fill casks. Rejuvenation means there is a bit more oak influence, but it will not be swamped in sherry.
I’ve had a soft spot for Caol Ila since their 18 year old whisky was the one that got me properly hooked on Islay whisky initially. It’s diminished a bit, or I should say my whisky-fandom has spread from just Islay to also include other regions with less focus on just Islay.
Very coastal, with brine, sea spray, sand. Some minerality, quite some smoke. A little bit fishy with straw and a touch of vanilla.
Pretty sharp, and very Islay. Smoky, salty. A little dry, with dry oak, some vanilla. Minerals, brine, tarry. Very much like a harbor on Islay.
The finish is much more gentle, a bit sweeter, and a bit paper-y. Smoky, briny, warming.
Honestly, this isn’t an overly unique or special whisky. While that sounds negative, I need to add that what this whisky does, it does very well. It’s almost a quintessential whisky that shows the coastal aspect of Islay with enough hints of sea and harbor like notes.
Because of that, I really, really like this one. It’s so focused without much distraction from the oak it sat expect that it has mellowed a bit from being new make. Very solid Islay whisky!
Caol Ila 10 years old, Refill American Hogsheads and Rejuvenated European Butts, 58.2%, Feis Ile 2018. Available from some places in the UK and Europe.