I have often spoken of my love for Caol Ila. It’s one of my favourite distilleries, an Islay gem much neglected by those who are bedazzled by the shiny marketing of Ardbeg, or the heritage branding and Royal Warrant of Laphroaig.
Caol Ila throws a lot of its output into Johnnie Walker so it’s not surprising, then, that it has a capacity of some 3.5 million litres of whisky a year. That’s over three times that of Ardbeg. And because it’s big and ungainly – and because we’re led to hate any company that’s big and ungainly these days – many people overlook Caol Ila.
That’s fine with me. More for the rest of us, and its prices might not get all that ridiculous either. Yet for some reason I keep trying to preach the Good Word of Caol Ila from my whisky pulpit (those two words paired together make it sound like some kind of an affliction rather than just a euphemism).
Let my sermon continue with Caol Ila Moch. Moch is Gaelic for ‘dawn’, which suggests something a little easy-going – and that’s just what this is, a slightly lighter styled Caol Ila. It’s selected for taste rather than age. Or rather it is “unconstrained by age, cask wood, strength or finish”. That kind of spiel means there are no other clues as to what goes into this. All that is known is that it’s bottled at 43.0% ABV.
Colour: pale gold. The house white. On the nose: aw, now that’s a lovely aroma. Just beautiful sweet peat. The kind of peat you dream of wallowing in like a rare breed of Islay pig. Nothing much more than that, but by thunder! It’s beautiful. Definitely a citrus streak here and there. Melted caramel sauce. Islay tablet. Not staggeringly complex, but I’m quite happy to keep sniffing this all day.
In the mouth: it was never quite going to live up to the nose, but I’m certainly not disappointed with what shows through. All those flavours follow through perfectly. Awesome creaminess. Custard heaped on top of apple and rhubarb crumble. Old school puddings (but probably from a posh school that has good catering). When the peppery peat kicks in (well, more of a tickle than a kick) I’m finding hints of lime pickle pre-Poppadom. A touch husky. A waft of mint. The finish is neither short nor particularly long, but just really, really delightful, and all you’d hope from a puddling-like peated whisky.
At just over £40 a bottle, this is why I love this distillery – it’s such a bargain. So the Caol Ila Moch is described as easy-drinking, and I’d agree with that – in a positive way. This is perfect stepping-stone for those who have previously been afraid of peat monsters. And also just a lovely drop it its own right – a step-ladder to help peat evangelists down from their particular high horse. It’s got less peat in it than the Caol Ila 12 Years Old, sure, but here less is definitely more – or, should I say, less is moch.
Get yourself a bottle, for at this time of year – as the leaves are reddening faster than the cheeks of a politician caught exposing himself in a honey trap – you’ll find the Moch exceptionally pleasant company.