Caol Ila Reviews [1000th whisky network review/600th Scotch review]

Nearly 5 years ago I posted my first review on reddit, with the intent of starting to review whisky. I had just come back from visiting the UK for the first of three trips. On two more trips I would do 50 reviews in the UK to make up for the 0 on the first trip, as well as missing some rarer whiskies there.

I’ve since been around for the start of the World Whisky reviews, Bourbon coming into the fold, and now have become a founder of the Toronto Whisky Society.

Seems like a good start, is what I’m saying. I still have somethings to catch up on. There’s a few distilleries I still need to do.

However I’d be remiss if I didn’t share what I’ve learned about reviews of any kind up until this point:

  • State your biases: We all have them. It’s human. State them, and when someone is new, they’ll understand. For instance, I’m about to review Islay: I’m a peat head. And while Caol Ila isn’t my favourite Islay, it’s certainly one that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit.
  • Be as informative as possible in the review. Be prepared to be wrong, and accept criticism or errors.
  • Learn everything you can about something, but only after you’ve reviewed it. We’ve seen time and time again that pre-conceived notions of price, quality, brand, etc. can affect how you review something. So if you can, review something as blind as possible.
  • Dick jokes. Or whatever humour. But mostly dick jokes. Dicks are universally funny. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone. Everyone laughs at dicks.

So there you have it. Oh, and don’t forget to get to the point.

Today I’m reviewing Caol Ila. Why did I choose this distillery? Because it came to my attention that I’ve paid attention to other distilleries much more than it.

Pronounced “cull-eela”, this is Islay’s biggest distillery. It produced more than double the spirit of the other distilleries on the island each year. It’s used in blends quite often, owned by Diageo, and every so often releases an unpeated releases to show that they don’t need to rely on peat all the time.

I’ll be trying a few of the different offerings, in a vain effort to ‘catch up’. Canada doesn’t get all the options they could for this one, so I’m quite happy to have swapped for these or had friends bring them in.

Caol ila 8 2007 unpeated style 2.jpeg

Thanks to /u/cake_my_day for this sample.

An old adage when talking about why men don’t like vasectomies is this: What’s a snake without it’s venom? Just a worm.

However I’d state that’s a poor way to look at the world, as not all are venomous. Constrictors, for instance, are large enough to wrap around and strangle their prey. Granted we don’t all have pythons.

However even milk snakes and garter snakes still do quite well, and here in Canada we’re lucky to have them, otherwise pests would overrun us.

Why do I bring this up? I like writing. Also because our next dram is a Caol Ila without peat. Which to people like myself would, at first, foolishlessly compare to snakes without venom. Granted I’ve had (and enjoyed) Caol Ila without peat, so maybe I wouldn’t.

Caol Ila 8 Unpeated 2007 release is here to step up and state that they are not just peat lovers malt. So they leave the peat out. And as I’m going from youngest to oldest (then NAS), it goes first.

This is coloured, unfortunately. However it’s not the only one out there. There’s another bottling from 2005, however that one is weaker than this one. That way we’ll all have hair on our chest – Especially the women.

So now that you’re wondering what kind of SEO this review and fantasy dwarf erotica have in common, let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Caol ila 8 2007 unpeated style 1.jpeg

Price: N/A

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1998

Bottled: 2007

Cask type: First fill Bourbon cask

Number of bottles: 9690

Abv: 64.9%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/6

Nose: Vegetal, vanilla custard, brown butter, mushroom, moss, popcorn, pear, lime pie filling

The first fill bourbon casks have really imparted an interesting, strong vanilla note on this. It’s creamy, like proper eggs or good brown butter.

There’s also a lot of earth, again like dwarf erotica. Both play off each other nicely. A lot more complex then I’d normally give a young malt.

Taste: Butter, brine, pepper, sand, lime zest, mushroom, pear

Taste is less complex than the nose. You know, my catch phrase. It’s still quite sweet, but closer to a sweet white wine. Or like a mix of Riesling and Chardonnay.

Earth and sweet again on the taste. Little more acidity here, which is nice. Oddly the vanilla is gone, especially given this was first fill. However there’s still butter, and as my waistline can attest, butter is a must.

Finish: Lime pudding, ginger, lemongrass, cream, brown sugar, white pepper, cinnamon

Back with some creamy complexity. Good amount of spice now, popping up each time, some heat from the youth (not a bad thing), and citrus. However now we’re missing the butter and the vanilla.

Conclusion: It’s like having your meal in reverse. Which isn’t the best plan. Granted we all, at some point, as children, thought it would be awesome.

Granted we all, as well, as young adults, proved that following up your cake with broccoli feels off.

That’s my feeling with this dram. It’s a really big nose that loses sweetness as time goes on and then peters out. The finish isn’t bad, it’s just at the wrong point in the dram.

This isn’t a bad dram. Rather I really enjoyed it quite a bit. The taste was missing something, however that nose is stellar. It’s what you look for in a young malt, showing off some brash sides or the really nice wood used. I’d recommend finding this, for no other reason than it stands apart from the other unpeated versions quite nicely.


caol ila carnegie whisky cellars exclusive 2.jpeg

Thanks to /u/unclebaldric for this sample.

Shakespeare once wrote, and I’m paraphrasing here, “There’s a whole bunch of shit out there, yo.” This is not limited to the things in Heaven and Earth. It applies to casks.

As such, in the land of unicorns, a cask that comes from an independent bottler that’s only for one group or store and has a limited run is a pink one that enjoys banjo music and studies constellations.

Kinda. I mean, unicorns are made up. Unless you’re 3, then.. yeah, they are made up. People just got mixed up with rhinos. But don’t worry, humans are making sure they are dying off too.

Caol Ila 2005 Gordon & MacPhail Carnegie Whisky Cellars Exclusive is that near to be dead rhino that your children will only be able to read about and eventually think they have magical powers. Either that or they assume all of them sound like J.K. Simmons.

So this is a 11 year old sherried Caol Ila, bottled at cask strength. Ignore all the other rambling, that’s the headline. Let’s see how it tastes.

caol ila carnegie whisky cellars exclusive 1.jpeg

Price: £65

Region: Islay

Distilled: 2005

Bottled: October 2016

Cask Number: 301490

Cask Type: Refill sherry hogshead

Outrun: 118 bottles

Abv: 51.3%

Colour: 5Y 7/10

Nose: BBQ sauce + mesquite ribs, molasses baked beans, lime sorbet, iodine/hospital, ginger molasses cookies, rosemary, ash

Lots of molasses notes that have evolved quite a bit in a short amount of time. First 15 minutes is pure BBQ. Big meaty flavours.

Eventually there’s some sweet notes (that we understand is part of the Caol Ila flavour based on the unpeated parts). Some herbal notes, ash at the end, and a good amount of salt. Really nice nose.

Taste: Brine, lemon juice, caramel, caramel again, violets, almond, cola

Caramel once more, and then oddly caramel again. It’s really a lot of caramel. Given some time, the other notes come in, but… Yeah, that’s unbalanced.

Granted salt tastes good with caramel, the floral aspects work great, and the nuttiness combines to make a cola note.

Finish: Portobello mushroom, ash, bread, ginger candy, baklava, smoked salt, caramel, peach

Big earth flavour that is proper amazing. Tons of bake goods. Flavour that goes on forever.

Yeah, my attempts at haikus are sad. This is really, really good. All the flavours meld well. Finish is huge. If you don’t like mushrooms, run the other way. Or just don’t drink it. Your call.

Conclusion: Wow. I recently started to wonder if I enjoyed peat bombs anymore. If I was all peatered out…. wow that pun sucked. Seriously though, I started to wonder if I just was blown away by first times of having Caol Ila 12 or Caol Ila CS or Ardbeg 10. And then I tried this, and I’m sure that yeah, I really, really enjoy this.

Suffice to say, I was very impressed by this. It’s strong, powerful, complex, and interesting. I don’t blame them for picking this cask. It’s a must buy for me. Sure, the taste wasn’t as amazing as the rest, however it’s still tasty. Who doesn’t like caramel? Lots of people, and they shouldn’t drink this, but for the rest of us, it’s great!


Caol Ila 13 Adelphi Selection 2003 2.jpg

So, let’s take a second to see what we’ve learned so far: I like Caol Ila. I’m preferring it peated.

Wait, I’ve reviewed 1/5th of what I’m reviewing. I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions.

Up next, we’re doing a review of Caol Ila 13 Adelphi Selection 2003. Adelphi, for those of you who haven’t read my other reviews, believe in the spirit speaking for itself. You may have seen The Whisky Lady’s amazing description of how to read labels. If not, before this is a link.

You won’t need it as much for Adelphi. You get what you get, judge it based on the malt. I’d suggest trying them before you buy. They have a slightly better success chance than other Independent Bottlers, however there’s always the potential for a rough times.

Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Caol Ila 13 Adelphi Selection 2003 1.jpg

Price: $139.96 CAD at Keg’n Cork

Region: Islay

Distillation Date: 2003

Bottling Date: 2016

Cask Number: 301264

Outrun: 280 bottles

Abv: 58.9%

Colour: 2.5Y 9/6

Nose: Sea air, matchsticks, moss, pine burning, cherry blossom, buttermilk

Lighter nose, which is too bad. Was hoping for a little more. It goes to more of the earthy/herbal aspects of Caol Ila. Some floral aspects, some creamy.

I guess if you’re looking for a nose between peat and unpeated malt, then this is for you? For me it’s a little too light, and therefore I’m better than you, because arbitrary straw man.

Taste: Cherry, lemon pepper, caramel, charcoal, floral, ash

Again, if I was handed this blind, I’d be lost. Mostly because I’m not good at blind drams. But also because I’m horrible at them. As well because, beyond the eventual ash, this doesn’t remind me, as much, of Caol Ila.

Not too complex. Very citrus and light flavours. A little bit watery, even at the high abv.

Finish: Mushroom, beef broth, ginger, funk/algae, smoke, butter

Earth finish. Earth bomb, pure and simple. Ever garden and eat a potato right from the ground? That’s this. Except more rich earth flavour.

It’s unbalanced to earth. Some things are great as bombs. Earth, for me, isn’t doing it. Or maybe it’s the funk/algae flavour.

Conclusion: This one is different. Very different. I’d go so far as to say it was an unreactive cask.

I felt that this should either have been put into a blend, or kept in the cask longer, or maybe told to stay in the corner, or something. Something odd happened here. If this was a craft distillery, I’d say wild yeast. However Caol Ila has more insurances given they make the most juice of anyone on the island.

All in all, this was a miss for me. But it may be nice for you, because it’s so different.


Caol Ila 17 Unpeated 2015 Release 2.jpg

Thanks to /u/Throzen for this sample.

There has been a lot of unpeated releases from Caol Ila. These are the stories about them and some guy on the internet who has tasted them.

Now imagine the Law and Order sound. But not really, I don’t want to be sued by Dick Wolves.

2 years ago (or as people who buy whisky from the LCBO know, “this year”), Caol Ila released yet another Unpeated release. This is (presumably) the oldest version out.

We don’t know the age of the Stitchell one.

I’ve, at this point, now tried the 8 and 15. I’m a peat head, so I’m kinda lost. I enjoyed the 15. The 8 is right up there. I felt the 15 was complex, and the 8 needed more time. Also I couldn’t hunt down the 12 in time for this review.

So in theory, I should love the Caol Ila 17 Unpeated 2015 Release, which is older, and thus more age = better, right?

Yeah, I know, by 1000 reviews, I already know that’s BS, and so do you.

Let’s see how it tastes.

Caol Ila 17 Unpeated 2015 Release 1.jpg

Price: $179.95 CAD at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1997

Bottled: 2015

Cask Type: Ex-Bourbon

Abv: 55.9%

Colour: 5Y 8/8

Nose: Hay, peach jam, buttermilk, hot apple sauce, clove, violets, walnut cake

This takes some time to really open up. At first it was nothing but hay and stone fruit, and who wants to relive how they lost their virginity?

Eventually there’s some acidity, creaminess, and nuttiness. A little spice, and floral aspects. I want a little bit more spice, or a little less cereal notes here. It’s not quite jiving up. Imagine someone who doesn’t like cinnamon making apple pie, for instance. The smell would be missing something.

Taste: Peach hot sauce, walnut, pepper, caramel, oat, basil

Stone fruit and heat on this one. Given time it abates a little bit. Water helps as well, but it’s really quite hot. While not bad, it’s too hot to really enjoy.

Continues on with sweet and heat throughout. Cereal is present there as well. I think if I mention that again, that dead horse will be beat to a pulp.

Finish: Peach pit, cloves, cinnamon, wheat, cashew, club soda

And the spice comes out at the end, however now the stone fruit has dried up quite a bit. So it ends up being cereal and spice. Which isn’t bad. I certainly like generic spice cereal, like cinnamon toast.

So it tastes nice, but reminds me that the before part is missing spice.

Conclusion: Overall I felt this was missing chunks throughout. The nose was nice, but had too much stone fruit and cereal notes. It needed spices. Then the taste was missing the spice, but was really hot. Wasn’t a fan of it.

The finish ends with the spice I wanted, but the club soda and wood replaces the fruit and it turns to spice and cereal.

On paper, this all works. Separately as parts of a whisky, it does not. Or at least doesn’t to the point it should. I prefer the 15 a lot more over this one, so perhaps the extra time hasn’t done it favours.


Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve 2013 2.jpg

Thanks to /u/unclebaldric for this sample.

Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve Special Release 2013 is one of many things: First off, it’s one of the special releases. Second, it’s one of 9 of the unpeated releases. It’s the only NAS unpeated release (from what I can find).

However above all that, it’s the only time that Caol Ila named a special release after one of their distillers. Billy Stitchell worked at Caol Ila for 39 years, and is the fourth generation of his family to work there. So this was released to congratulate him on his retirement, and also congratulate his family for all their hard work.

It’s heartwarming to view a large company as having traditions. While I don’t believe for a second that the company isn’t like all other corporations and is built solely for profit, it’s nice to hear about them honouring part of what made them great.

So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve 2013 1.jpg

Price: N/A

Region: Islay

Bottled: 2013

Cask Types: Refill American oak, rejuvenated American Oak, ad ex-bodega European Oak

Abv: 59.6%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/3

Nose: Lime buttercream, peanut, wheat, Cheerios, melon/grapefruit

Sweet, citrus, very lime forward. Mixes nicely with the nutty side.

Doesn’t smell as strong as the abv. would denote. Fruity, but light. Grapefruit takes quite a bit of time to show up.

This is missing something. Like you’re waiting for the shoe to drop.

Taste: Margarita, cream, sugar, pistachio, oil, allspice

Sweet, tons of lime. First couple sips are 100% Margarita, citrus, lime, even some peppery tequila.

More time brings out more spice. The mouthfeel is quite nice. However again, it’s quite simple once the Margarita is gone.

Finish: Cumin, basil, romaine lettuce, cinnamon spread, white pepper/hot

Finish is heat and earth. Some herbs, lots of leaf, and the odd sugary part.

Frankly I think this needed more time in the casks. Or maybe the final ex-bodega cask added too much heat. But wow this ends rough.

Conclusion: It’s hard to balance out this one. One second it’s complex, next second it’s simple, it’s hot at the end. I mean, it really is lime centred. And blows away you with cereal and sweetness.

Honestly this wasn’t my favourite. It’s missing parts. It needs something. Maybe peat. Maybe more time. I can’t really say. But this seems only partially done. And while I’m happy that Diageo celebrated part of it’s culture, I wish they had given us a different one instead.


Caol Ila 18 2.jpg

I mean, maybe I’ve hit too high for my own good. I’m constantly posting independent bottlings, things that others only have the smallest chance at, and really ones that few have had. I mean, look at this list: It’s all special editions and IBs so far.

Except for this one, because as you can tell from the setup, I’ve missed a few standards. This is one of those. It’s one of the three standards of Caol Ila, the other two being the 12 and the Cask Strength.

And because I live in a province that doesn’t get it often (take that however you will), while in the UK I ordered a sample of Caol Ila 18. Because lists and reasons and my own need to complete things.

Then I left it around until I decided to do a bunch of Caol Ilas. Like I’m doing with Ardbegs, and other strange animals.

So this is standard juice in a standard offering that was aged in the old standard way (ex-bourbon). Sounds good, let’s see how it tastes.

Caol Ila 18 1.jpg

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Abv: 43%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/2

Nose: Peanut brittle, butter, roasted nuts, lime Tostitos, eraser

Nutty and sweet. Good amount of butter. Also the lime from before has mixed with the cereal notes of the malt to give a really, really good lime Tostitos flavour. Which is the only chip I’ll really binge on.

Peat takes a bit to show up, and is more rubbery than younger versions.

Taste: Lime Tostitos, cream, chipotle, red jujubes, caramel

I swear I’m not paid by Fritos. This just really tastes like Lime Tostitos. Available near you, probably. I don’t really know.

Sweeter taste. Beyond a smokey pepper note, the peat doesn’t do much for this one. If I was having this blind, I may even guess (at this point) it had no peat. More sweet/fruit forward.

Finish: Lime cheesecake, cumin, smoke/peat, lime gelatin, butter

And now we have the peat. Finish has some of the trademarks before, but the low Abv. is huting it. Some things start and then don’t quite finish here. It needs more oomph to get it over.

Conclusion: A nice whisky, however it’s hurt by the lower abv. on it. I’m glad they didn’t do 40%, however it’s like the sentences are missing parts to them.

Which I considered writing as an incomplete sentence and then didn’t because… that wouldn’t

Anyway, what I’m saying is it’s quite lime forward. There’s some complexity that shows they know what they are doing with the age, however it doesn’t get to sing as much as it could because it’s weak. I’d almost say this is best enjoyed after having peated and unpeated versions, because you really understand where parts of it are coming from.


Caol Ila 25 2.jpg

Thanks to /u/cake_my_day for this sample.

Caol Ila 25 used to be special versions. At least from what I can find. Back in 2004 and 2005, when we were young and stupid and didn’t know we were living in the “golden” times, they were cask strength.

Eventually, in 2006, when we all forgot we fought aliens Citation Needed, Caol Ila 25 was added to the official line up. However in order to keep it coming out, it couldn’t be cask strength, and thus we ended up with a weaker one.

I’m of two minds on that: On the one side, I wish I had a sample of the 2004 or 2005, because I prefer cask strength. On the other hand, it most likely wouldn’t have continued out, and I wouldn’t have been able to swap for it. So… I wouldn’t be tasting it.

Thus I’m glad they added it to the full line. Kinda. Maybe happier at 46%. But then it would cost more. Who knows? Maybe it didn’t make a difference.

Suffice to say, let’s see how this one tastes, shall we?

Caol Ila 25 1.jpg

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Abv: 43%

Colour: 2.5Y 8/8

Nose: Smoked chocolate, honeycomb, stewed pears, yeast, plum, Miniwheats, butter

Older peat becomes chocolate, but keeps some of the smoke. News at 11! Or whenever you’re reading this.

Sweet notes that aren’t too sweet. Plums, in other words. That good balance of sweet. Again, cereal is here, but this time it melds better with the sweets. In case you’re wondering, I mean original flavour Miniwheats.

There, now you can sleep at night.

Taste: Soft peat, mint, pear syrup, apple, cereal, basil, chocolate syrup

Good mouthfeel, which is a surprise given the low abv. It’s nicely sweet, sweeter than the nose. It’s almost closer to a Highland that was peated than an Islay. The peat is light, given time.

There’s hints of herbal notes throughout. Sometimes it works (mint and chocolate) and others are a little off (pear and basil).

Finish: Granite, moss, green tea, simple syrup, turmeric, coffee, steamed milk, butter

Finish is earth forward. Not an earth bomb, like above. The sweetness stays, there’s a great coffee taste, and… wait, what?

Oh, no, I’ve never had a turmeric latte. I should? Okay voice in my head, moving on.

It’s nice and creamy at the end as well.

Conclusion: For each of the interesting, unique flavours this is quite tasty. The peat is quite noticeable versus the 25 year.

That said, that ugly truth keeps popping up for this one: The Abv. You have uniqueness, but not a lot of follow though. For instance: There’s be more complex notes like a smoked chocolate or green tea, but then it would follow up with a yeast or apple note. And while those aren’t bad notes, I want more. I want specific apples or apple pie or latte or something like that.

So while I enjoyed this, it falls somewhat short.


Caol Ila 28 Murry McDavid Mission Gold 1980 2.jpg

Thanks to /u/throzen for this sample.

I recently came upon two conclusions.

Conclusion 1: I am not always the biggest fan of Sauternes casks, going so far as to think I didn’t like whiskies that were finished/maturred in these casks

Conclusion 2: I have enjoyed some, and shouldn’t automatically assume I don’t like them.

It’s good to learn things about yourself. And this wasn’t scary, like finding out you’re into being slapped or something.

So I traded for this whisky only knowing it was a Caol Ila. When I finally looked it up, turns out it was finished in a Sauternes cask. So a few other whisky nerds and my wife wondered why I wanted to try Caol Ila 28 Murray McDavid Mission Gold 1980. And frankly, I think I need to keep trying different versions of Sauternes casks, as I can’t really pin down how I really feel about them.

So let’s see how this finish changes it from the standard Caol Ilas I’ve been having, shall we?

Caol Ila 28 Murry McDavid Mission Gold 1980 1.jpg

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1980

Bottled: 2008

Age: 28 years old

Cask Type: Bourbon, then finished in Barsac – Château Climens (Sauternes) casks

Number of bottles: 1189

Abv: 55.4%

Colour: 10YR 6/6

Nose: Sharp pear, peach, papaya, Turkish delight, young palm, Hollandaise sauce, smokey Monterey Jack cheese

Where as other Caol Ilas have been lime forward, this one doesn’t share that. Actually, after the first couple minutes nosing it, it’s more stone fruit and sharp fruit. Which cancels each other out, if I remember playing Rock, Paper, Scissors correctly.

Eventually you end up with this sweet note, this creamy note, and this cheese note. It’s actually quite nice and different. It takes some time to really parse different parts out. I’d recommend water if you don’t have a few hours with it.

Taste: Lemon chicken, smokey BBQ sauce, orange bitter, lemongrass, allspice

Not surprisingly the casks have given it some lemon notes. Surprisingly they melded really well with the older spirit. Some may find too much lemon here. Others may find lemon-stealing prostitutes in this dram. It’s all part of having this many lemons.

Some molasses, the acidity reminds me of oranges, and some good herbal notes. Nicely complex, though like I said, it may be too much lemon for most.

Finish: Lemon oil, truffle, blood orange pop, caramel, lemon jujube, mint, earthy cheese, pear

Big finish. Really tasty. The orange/lemon is more balanced, though again you might find it too heavy.

Also I added “earthy cheese” because I couldn’t remember a specific type of earthy cheese. I know one from PEI but that’s really regional to Eastern Canada.

Earth here is nicely complex. It goes beyond “dirt” or even “mushroom”, and is more rich.

Conclusion: Wow. A quite nice dram. It falls short of being truly, insanely complex, the taste is overly lemoned, and the whole thing takes a long time/a bit of water to open up.

However it’s really quite unique. A lot of people usually associate an older dram that was finished as a failure that needed some parts hidden. I don’t think this is the case. Rather the finish added to it. I’m assuming this wasn’t going as well as it could, and the added acidity helped carry it to what it is.

I think this is a smart move to pick up, if you can.


Caol Ila 30 Special Release 2014 2.jpg

Thanks to /u/xile_ for this sample.

Caol Ila 30 Special Release 2014 is the special release from 2014. I know, it would have surprised more people if it had come out in 2004, given the name. Missed opportunity, if you ask me.

None the less, the people at Caol Ila decided to go for high end this year versus other special releases. It’s 5 years older than the standard on the market, it’s cask strength, and it was aged in different types of oak.

It’s also 1 year off being a birth year dram for me, so I didn’t buy it. Also I didn’t really have the cash. Also I didn’t really know it existed. Or at least I was blind to it.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I get to try it now. The previous versions did not have any European oak. At least, I didn’t note any. I could have made a mistake.

There’s also the chance that it means there was sherry in here. Or an ex-sherry cask was used. I don’t really know.

What I do know is I still have a mouth and I’m rambling. Let’s see how the dram tastes, shall we?

Caol Ila 30 Special Release 2014 1.jpg

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1983

Bottled: 2014

Cask types: Refill American & European oak

Abv: 55.1%

Colour: 2.5Y 7/6

Nose: Mango lassie, smoked citrus sauce, sea air, cashew, pepper, oatmeal with brown sugar, tobacco

Creamy, citrus forward, and no lime. Again. I guess after the 25 year mark, that note changes. The smoke and fruit blend nicely together. It goes from simple to complex and back and forth throughout.

I’m not the biggest fan of tobacco. I’ll be honest. So I can’t really say if the tobacco mixed with the nuttiness and brown sugar is a specific type of cigar, or pipe tobacco, etc. That said I was able to weed it out. So yay me?

Taste: Lime, smoky orange, orange chocolate, brown sugar, BBQ chips

And here’s the lime. Doesn’t stick around for long.

Smoke orange drinks are nice. This reminds me of one of those. Eventually the smoke becomes chocolate and you have full Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

This is quite sweet tinge to this. But not like milk chocolate, more like BBQ chips that have extra sugar to ensure you keep eating them.

See, totally not sponsored by Frito-Lay.

Finish: Tobacco, shredded wheat, milk, cloves, cinnamon, rye bread, dry pear, molasses

Long finish on this one. Really long. Quite nice too. It’s full of spice. Again, I’m not 100% up on my tobacco knowledge, so there’s a chance others would be able to describe this better.

The whole thing tastes like an interesting bread pudding, to me. A pear/spice bread pudding, that I’ll try to make at some point in the future months.

Conclusion: This, to me, proves my point about the 25 year. It finishes the sentence. It’s complex. it adds that next part. It does cool things with different parts of it. It grows as you drink it. Water brings out interesting aspects.

That said, as I said before, I’m not the biggest tobacco fan. So it loses points for me. That said, if you are, this would be amazing for you. I think. Spice in tobacco is a thing, right? Cool.


Caol Ila 30 Hunter Laing Old & Rare - A Platinum Selection 2.jpg

It’s rare that I am able to do a mega-review like this. It’s rare that I can do side by sides. It’s even more rare that albino wolves attack the Empire State building on mass while someone plays Yakity-sax backwards.

But that’s not happening, so why not do a SBS in a mega-review? Probably won’t happen again. I mean, all mega-reviews end up being a SBSBSBSBS. Try not to read that as Bullshit over and over.

So to compare the Special Release of Caol Ila 30, we have Caol Ila 30 Hunter Laing Old & Rare – A Platinum Selection.

The Old & Rare line is Hunter Laing releasing single casks that are undiluted and not filtered. A Platinum Selection is… not something I can find an official description for, but in all honesty I’m just going to say it’s a special selection.

So let’s see how it compares the ones above, shall we?

Caol Ila 30 Hunter Laing Old & Rare - A Platinum Selection 1.jpg

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Vintage: 01.1984

Bottled: 10.2014

Cask type: Refill Hogsheads

Number of Bottles: 246 bottles

Colour: 2.5Y 8/10

Nose: Nectarine upside down cake, white chocolate, buttermilk, almond, cinnamon cereal, peach juice, smokey peach cobbler

While this one has the stone fruit elements of others, it seems to take the creamy, spice, cereal, and blends it all together properly.

Honestly spent longer than normal on this nose. It’s hard to really explain. Almost like a really, really good cereal that costs too much that you poured high end yogurt on. And then had sex with it. Because you deserve some alone time.

Taste: Peach juice, beef Wellington, brine, ginger beer, chocolate tarts

Again, starts with stone fruit, but then goes to a deep meat and earth mix. But richer than normal. Like the cream notes from before have amped it up.

Spice kicks in, it’s a little hot. But not in a rough way. The rest of the cream and smoke pair with some buttery notes to really blend well together.

Finish: White chocolate, ash/charcoal, menthol cigarettes, mint chocolate, cardamon coffee, barnyard, brown butter

Finish is a lot of ash. Not as long as before, but big flavours. It’s easy to pick apart each flavour in here. It’s a beautiful spice mix, well rich earth, and wonderful chocolate.

Conclusion: So this wins. It avoids the pitfalls of the one before by having less simple flavours. It has a finish that rivals top Bourbons for individual flavours working well. And all in all, the nose works better.

It didn’t set off memories, and there were some odd peach juice elements that I feel could grow to be more. However those are nit picks because we’re talking about something really good.

Try this if you can. Buy it if you can afford it.


Scotch reviews #600-609, Islay reviews #132-141, Whisky Network reviews #1000-1009

1001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die review #324-326 (Caol Ila 8, 18, and 25)

One thought on “Caol Ila Reviews [1000th whisky network review/600th Scotch review]

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