This was one of my most highly anticipated releases for 2014. To my knowledge it is the oldest distillery bottling of Caol Ila that Diageo has ever offered up. It’s certainly the oldest official release I’ve tried so far.
I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a couple of 30 year old Caol Ila independent bottlings, but it’s debatable how true they are to the distillery’s target profile, irrespective of how great they were. This opportunity to see what the brand itself would offer up as the apex expression of its mature malt is a privilege, especially in light of the hefty price tag associated. Even if I ultimately wanted to scoop one up, the nearly four figure price tag was enough of a deterrent. Enter the generosity of friends, and voila! A few notes to share and some lasting memories of another glorious example of what mature Islay whiskies can be with enough time and care.
This bottling – a part of Diageo’s annual run of special releases – was a limited release of 7,638 bottles. The price was high, of course, but so is the payoff. Having tried it now, would I drop the coin for this one? Nah. I’ll save those kind of rare purchases for something a little more special. That shouldn’t belittle the point, though, that was a special dram and one I’m pretty damn pleased to have as a notch on my bedpost, if you will.
Nose: This is BIG whisky, and one I’d never peg as a Caol Ila. Quite ‘meaty’ for lack of a better word. Burnt wood. Big spicy notes. Well-seasoned leather. Opens slowly into thick threads of smoke and caramel. Citrus, but less than I’s expect with Caol Ila. Lime candy. Certainly somewhat coastal.
Palate: Oh yeah. Nice delivery. Massive and oily. More smoke now. Peaty and earthy notes grow bigger over time. Tangy fruits and an intensity somewhat like an underripe green apple. Pencil shavings. Caramelized ham. Again some leather. Slightly menthol. Salty, and did I mention oily?
Thoughts: This is a whisky tied up tight. Hard to unravel and demanding of attention. Complex and not really all that recognizable as Caol Ila.
* Sincere thanks to the kind, anonymous gent who shared a healthy dram of this with me. Appreciate it.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt