Jun 172017
 

Caol Ila 31 y.o. Cask #2930 (Silver Seal)

54.2% abv

Score:  90/100

 

Check out that bottle!  One of the coolest, most retro looking pieces of whisky-ware I’ve yet seen.  Not that we decide our whisky opinions on the aesthetics, but credit where credit is due, right?  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we’re sipping a 31 year old cask strength from one of Islay’s most consistently enjoyable distilleries.  Especially as regards older malts.

Caol Ila ages beautifully.  I think we’ve discussed this in other places.  In many ways it’s like the poor man’s Port Ellen.  The spirit is peated to about the same specs, would have been casked into wood procured under the same wood policy and, in cases such as this, matured to an age we see most Port Ellen releases at.  Let’s not forget that Diageo owned Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Port Ellen at the same time.  But at the heart of it all, the most important factor is that the oily spirit marries well with wood for extended periods of time.  In fact…I don’t believe I’ve ever met an over-oaked Caol Ila.

And as for this Silver Seal…gorgeous.  Rich and classic.  Elegant, to be sure, but with enough bombast to please the discerning.  The phenols in this malt fade to wispy tendrils of austere beauty, but that mature smoke brings a complexity I miss in modern malts.

Let’s face it…the Italian independent bottlers know their whisky.  Between these guys, Samaroli and Wilson & Morgan there are some spectacular casks on the market.

Nose:  Slightly doughy with a pepper note.  Some light peat and smoke.  Hints of candy and bubblegum.  Nice citrus backbone.  A hint of grassy, herbal tea notes.  A hint of savoury herb, maybe oregano.  Salt and pepper.

Palate:  Grassy arrival.  Very oily.  More smoke now.  Oak is assertive, but pleasant.  Neat fruity and sweet development.  Linseed oil.  Citrus peel.  Earthy, peaty notes sprinkled all over this one.  Nice tart closeout here.

Thoughts:  Very nice whisky.  Rich throughout.  Balanced and delicious.  This is the first Silver Seal malt I’ve tried.  Hope to get my hands on more.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:29 am

  3 Responses to “Caol Ila 31 y.o. Cask #2930 (Silver Seal) Review”

  1. Ha—”whisky-ware.” That’s a good little bit of whisky lingo.

    On the subject of certain malts aging gracefully:

    I see that idea come up quite a bit in reviews of highly aged whiskies, like “Old Glenfarclas is always a treat” or “Something magical happens to Springbank after so many years.” I don’t really see the reverse, though.

    Sure, you see plenty of things like “This was too many years in a first-fill cask” or “This should have come out of the cask a little younger,” but those faults are usually blamed on the casks, not the distillate. So you never see things like “Ugh, Speyburn just can’t go the distance—when will they learn?” (or at least, I don’t).

    So I guess I’m wondering whether “able to age gracefully” is really a quality of the whisky itself, or just a favorable interpretation in the minds of those who get to enjoy great old whisky?

    • To start answering my own question, I’ll bring in an idea that I think I first heard from Ralfy: That some distillates are naturally “heavier” coming off the stills, and indeed DUE TO the shapes of those stills. I want to say that Lagavulin and Mortlach are the poster children for this phenomenon. And it’s these “heavy” whiskies that need a certain minimum time in the cask to transform their gross stuff into good stuff. Put another way, very young whisky from these distilleries is normally NOT good in the same way that very young whisky normally IS good from the likes of Kilchoman or Kilkerran.

      If all that’s true, could it be that the “lighter” whiskies (whichever they are—maybe Auchentoshan?) are the ones that don’t hold up over time?

      Maybe to cut to the chase: Can anyone name distilleries whose whisky is often bad after a fairly low number of years in the cask, like 20? If so, are they the producers of “lighter” whisky?

    • Maybe it’s a subtle form of confirmation bias. Well, maybe that’s the wrong term. I’m thinking that, given how commonly people say that kind of thing in reviews of old whiskies, it might just be an easy thing to say in the circumstances. Maybe “finding what you expect to find” is more to my point. Like how people who give a good review to a blend inevitably say things like “this was a testament to the skill of the master blender.”

      Anyway, I don’t mean this to be a cut on ATW’s review here, but rather a discussion of the phenomena. I think the previous “Ol’ Jas” comments here got lost in the simultaneous Kelpie discussion, so here again is the question on the table: Can anyone name distilleries whose whisky is often BAD after a fairly low number of years in the cask?

      (And FYI: This is Ol’ Jas posting under a new handle.)

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