We’re now onto the second of the mystery samples provided by the excellent Malt Review website. You can read about the background to what is becoming a regular ritual right here. Needless to say if you get the opportunity strike up a conversation and exchange some drams then do so, which brings me to this lovely #2.
Mortlach may have been chosen by the powers that be at Diageo for rebranding partially due to its cult popularity amongst whisky enthusiasts. Caol Ila is another distillery within the Diageo stable that is well respected but for now remains under the radar. This means prices for their memorable whiskies remain within the realms of the average Joe and are bottled at 70cl.
This Caol Ila was bottled in 2013 to celebrate the career of distillery manager Billy Stitchell who was retiring after almost 40 years in the whisky industry. You can read what Malt Review thought of it right here. Needless to say it is a lovely dram and the fact it is unpeated even more remarkable, as the tasting notes show the essence of Islay remains very much intact, somehow. This is only the 8th time Caol Ila has released an unpeated malt and what a send off!
Distillery: Caol Ila
Age: this is a No Age Statement release
Strength: 59.6% ABV
Price: around £75 and still available
Casks: a combination of American Oak, ex-bodega European Oak
Additional: while it does make up part of the 2013 Diageo special releases it is an unnumbered, secretive edition
Colour: a pale straw
Nose: in essence a very limited nose with reminders of sunflower oil, the sweetness of honey and richness of a homemade pastry. Maybe some buttercup and definitely a mint-oily quality going on here. So not expecting a huge deal on the palate…
Taste: Boom! Oh this is a strong fella and the only thing without water is the sweetness of peat. Very sweet peat. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Water and more water. A real sea salty, coastal atmosphere dipped in brine. A undercoat of barbecue simmering charcoal and more sugar in the presence of cream soda.
This isn’t a marvellously rich or varied whisky; no 57 varieties on display here. Rather than this being detrimental the core characteristics are so bold and well judged that I could sit back and just enjoy it more and more without complaint. This is a whisky that keeps it simple and becomes a delight because of the skill of those involved in creating it. Lovely.
Update: since this review I managed to purchase a bottle for myself and the photographs were updated to show a bottle in June 2016.