To my surprise Ralfy reviewed this Caol Ila recently, and gave it a raving review. The surprise wasn’t in the raving review, but in the fact that he managed to get hold of a bottle of whisky that has been released only in The Netherlands.
Of course, there’s Brexit, which is the biggest problem for any booze to cross the North Sea straight to consumers, but also there’s the fact that an importer like WIN is not a regular on anyone’s radar except when you’re in The Netherlands to begin with.
Anyway, he was thrilled about this, in part because the whisky, and its label, is very honest. It mentions that there’s no chill filtration, no colouring and no watering down. This is as it came from the cask. While that’s all very good, that doesn’t make for a great whisky yet.
Let’s dive in!
Some earthy peat, with bonfire smoke. Woody charcoal, a whiff of heather. A minor wine like note, somehow, with fruity sweetness. Tangerine, a bit of vanilla, coconut husk, hessian.
Even though it’s a cask strength whisky, the arrival takes a bit of time to build up. It has some heat like white pepper has, with dry oak and sweet pastry notes. Herbs and spices, hessian, and a bit of sweet citrus like tangerine here too.
The finish shows more phenolic notes. More smoke and bonfire notes. Not overly coastal, with some heather and oak. A warming and rather long finish.
This is a very solid young Islay whisky, but it somehow takes me back to the first Caol Ila I ever bought, the 18 year old, with a similar sweet and earthy note. I genuinly like this, and it makes for a bit more sentiment than normal in my ratings.
When I remove this sudden wave of nostalgia, what’s left is a very decent Caol Ila, not too predictable while also not defying its provenance. It’s very much an Islay whisky, but it’s not all salt and brine and smoke. I’m positively surprised!