Caol Ila 32, 1990-2022, Refill American Hogshead, 51.5% – Cask of Distinction

Sometimes people go ballistic when it comes to bottling luxurious hooch. In this case we should point the blame at Wu Dram Clan, but not only them. Bram and Floris of The Whisky Nerds are guilty of this one too, as is Pierrick Guillaume, distillery manager at Caol Ila.

But, if bottling a Cask of Distinction isn’t a big enough splurge, for Wu Dram Clan it’s the second one in 2022, after their rather magnificent Lagavulin 30 from earlier in the year.

Now, Caol Ila then. Older Caol Ila is a bit of a strange thing. In general it’s great, but what I mean by it being a strange thing, is that young Caol Ila is so very different. When ageing a Lagavulin or a Laphroaig, there are slight shifts of balances and the smoke mellows to allow for more and other flavors to come forward. However, with Caol Ila there are more changes, or so I think. The diesel fumes dissipate, it becomes a lot more fruity, and in my experience with cask strength Caol Ila the cask is far more noticeable at 10 to 15 years old.

That last one is weird. It’s like the cask influence becomes more ingrained in the whisky after some 15 to 20 years, instead of it becoming more dominant, as you would expect.

Image from Whiskybase

In short, Caol Ila generally ages very, very well. Let’s see what this one has been up to!

Sniff:
A fairly rich smokiness, with hints of pastry cream and soft notes of oak. Although there is the typical Caol Ila note of engine grease, it is very subtle. A hint of copper polish, granny smith apples.

Sip:
Quite some oak, sea shore, engine grease and copper. Quite a lot going on. Apples and star fruit, crisp fruity stuff. Slightly syrupy, with a gentle hint of vanilla.

Swallow:
The finish is quite long and focuses a lot obln the stereotype Caol Ila notes. Less fruit and vanilla. More engines and smoke.

A decade or so ago, Caol Ila from the early 1980s wasn’t a rare thing. Back then that was 30-ish years old, like this one. And yet, that was a far less subtle whisky than this one is. Whereas those went for rather typical Caol Ila with more age, and therefore a more mellow approach, this one is a few notches up from that.

This one shows a balancing act between Caol Ila spirit and smokiness, with subtle hints of cask influence over a long period of time. It tastes more ‘mature’ than I expected, without tasting ‘old’. Lovely crisp fruity notes, with that engine grease that screams Caol Ila. However, it’s a dram that requires you to sit down to fully appreciate. It’s not one that draws the attention by itself, I expect.

Great, great stuff!

92/100

Available in Germany and The Netherlands for about € 2000

Thanks for the sample, Wu Dram Clan and WhiskyNerds!

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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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