Cadenheads Caol Ila 1980 36 year old

Only recently I enjoyed a 21 year old Rare Malt Caol Ila and shortly after this experience those formidable whisky jungle drums sparked into life. Their focus was around the forthcoming Authentic Collection from Cadenheads and the star attraction was namely a 36 year old Caol Ila.

Caol Ila since its foundation in 1846 has grown into an underappreciated Islay distillery. Since its modernisation – or complete levelling and rebuild if you prefer – in 1972, its became the largest producer on the island. Whether its peated or non-peated expressions, I find that Caol Ila always delivers a decent dram. I was slightly disappointed by the Caol Ila 12 year old 2016 Feis Ile release that lacked a wee bit of refinement and depth, but this is a rare exception overall.

It’s a single malt that is widely supported by the independent bottlers. Sometimes I debate whether its easier to give away casks of Caol Ila, as Diageo may have more than it knows what to do with? That’s what producing over 6.5 million litres annually could result in. Such is the stream of bottlings from across the market you have to fear what will happen once this boom starts to deflate. When Alfred Barnard visited the original distillery during his epic voyage, annual output was 668,000 litres and describing the site as a charming spot.

This 36 year old was distilled in 1980 before being bottled in July 2016. The bourbon hogshead resulted in an outturn of 210 bottles at 52.3% strength and would set you back around £170. That’s a fantastic bargain on paper but what about the whisky itself?

Colour: almond paste
Nose: salty sea spray matched by rough Highland heather and a tin of hotdogs in brine. A toasted brown bread, baked apples, fennel and of course peat but its decayed over the decades to a backstage presence. Returning there’s pineapple, almonds, wet sand, grapefruit and a twist of lemon.
Taste: the peat now launches itself into a frontal assault armed with ginger, resin and a chocolate sponge cake. I’d avoid water as its far more enjoyable in its natural state. More of that salty spray with grapefruit, a little ash and an invigorating coastal walk.

Overall: a very interesting experience as I would have never placed this whisky in the mid-30’s age bracket. Given the choice I still prefer the Feis Ile 2013 Billy Stitchell bottling but it’s a great dilemma to be faced with.


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