These Cadenhead bottlings are always interesting. Most of what I tried from this era was at cask strength, and they all shared a sort of ‘razor sharp’ profile, whether it was a Rosebank, a Bladnoch, or a Laphroaig. When I started being interested in whisky, I rather quickly realized Cadenhead’s bottlings weren’t for me.
Of course, when Mark Watt took over things picked up massively and they went from an often disregarded bottler (by me, that is), to the most interesting one based on quality and price.
Interestingly, since Mark Watt left a couple of year ago, things have been far less interesting again. Of course, Brexit and the complete ridiculousness of getting bottles from the UK to the Netherlands didn’t help, but most of the releases that have been done since were far from enticing. Prices went up, ages went down, the ABV was often reduced to 46% instead of the natural cask strength that came before. And, also interestingly, it seemed the selection of distilleries to bottle casks from was focusing more on the lesser rated ones.
Then, RvB gave me a sample of this, which he used in a tasting that I couldn’t be part of because of shit planning on my side. A Caol Ila from an era that I generally quite like, and one that makes me ever so slightly nostalgic, since one of the first Islay bottlings I ever bought was of similar vintage and age. Let’s see where this one sits!
A sweet peat that’s surprisingly earthy, for an Islay whisky. Some pastry notes with pie dough, and later on there’s a hint of seaweed and brine. Some salinity and charcoal as well.
The palate is warm and has some notes of salinity. IT’s soft and gentle, with brine, oak and quite some smoke. Vanilla and brioche buns.
The smoke, brine and even a bit of fishiness round off this whisky. It’s less sweet than it was before, and more coastal.
When I drink a whisky that was bottled 20 years ago, I expect some form of ‘old bottle effect’ and this one is lacking that. Which, in result, makes it taste more like a contemporary bottling, since it doesn’t have much age either.
Having said that, it does feel like a rather generic Islay whisky. It has some sweetness and peat, and I would expect more notes of straw and grass from the region. It also doesn’t really show the typical Caol Ila notes of diesel and engine grease. A bit too clean to stand out, for me.