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Caol Ila 12 Year Old Unpeated

The journey continues. Yes, another Caol Ila whisky has popped up on my radar, having previously enjoyed the 12 Year Old standard bottling, and not so much the 1998 distiller’s edition. Basically, despite the fact that Caol Ila is owned by a giant with a moody reputation, who uses the distillery to knock-out whisky for cheap blends; and despite the fact that its whisky is shipped away from Islay as soon as it hits the bottom of a barrel (rather than be left to mature on the island and be a proper Islay whisky), I’m hoping to love this unlovable distillery.

So, next up in my campaign is the Caol Ila 12 Year Old Unpeated. To put it simply, whereas the rest of the distillery’s range is pretty much that of oily peat monsters, this whisky is an unpeated Special Release from 2011. An experiment, perhaps. It’s bottled at 64% from first fill ex-bourbon American oak casks.

Colour: pale, pinot grigio. On the nose: a real malty, cereal quality to this, followed by the solvent-like punt of alcohol. Not so much the an iodine, more of a paint-remover, but by no means unpleasant. Dash of lime. Tropical fruits opening up from the malt when more familiar with it. Sweetness, of course, though at the lighter, more vanilla-like end.

In the mouth: oh wow. That really is lovely. Very different. Hard to say how at first, but notably fruity and wine-like. Voignier. Chardonnay. The really bold whites. White sugar. Grapes, pineapple, citrus. All of this comes wrapped up in brine and almost paprika-like warmth. Not particularly viscous, but that’s no bother here. That all adds to the zippiness around the mouth, a flash of lightning. And it goes on and on…

64% you say? Not that you’d notice, so be careful.

So, this is a very good whisky. Actually, it’s a terrific whisky, and certainly worth the £60 price tag.

Some part of me doesn’t like to say it, but it’s better than the Caol Ila peated whiskies I’ve tried so far, even the standard 12 Year Old, which is a guilty pleasure. That’s pretty weird, for a distillery whose reputation has been forged out of peat.

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Mark

I've written about (and reviewed) whisky for Whisky Magazine and The Scottish Sporting Gazette among other publications. I do other writing too: several mass market genre novels, a few short stories, including for BBC Radio 4. For my day job (I know, I don't get out much) I work in digital content. Follow me on Instagram.com/maltreview/ or Twitter.com/MaltReview.

  1. Billy Abbott says:

    They’ve been doing the unpeated releases since 2006, so it’s not that much of an experiment these days. This year’s one has a chunk of sherry in it, and is rather good if you like that kind of thing. Which I do 🙂 There’s not all that much sherried Caol Ila out and about in the world…

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