Two 33+ year Caol Ilas

And now to conclude the review series that I’m calling “Caol Ila doesn’t sound like anything I can make a joke about and I need to name a series oh well just don’t write what I just said, yes this part.”

It’s been noted by people who look at my reviews closely that I favour younger whiskies. The reason is evident when I look at myself. because while I leave price out of my reviews, it’s very difficult, if not impossible to disregard your thoughts on a whisky based on its age or the amount of work that goes into it (which in a capitalism should translate to price).

Not only that, but some older whiskies not being great makes sense. It takes making multiple whiskies at various ages to get some great whiskies. Or even more so, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette, and if egg making had tons of random elements, you’d have a bunch of really meh omelettes. Especially if chickens didn’t exist and you had to just randomly grab eggs.

Imagine a lizard omelette. That’d just be weird.

I don’t have a lot of money. I have enough to try a few of these older ones, and typically the ones in my price range are less expensive. So perhaps I’m not trying the best older whiskies. Or perhaps I’ve had too many good younger whiskies. Or perhaps I’m biased based on growing up constantly looking for deals.

So at the end of this Caol Ila series, we have the two oldest samples. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. On some level, I expect a lot of complexity. Perhaps I expect too much.

Let’s see what happens to the malt after three decades, shall we?

Caol Ila 33 1984 Douglas Laing Old Particular (K&L Exclusive)

Price: $349.99 US at K&L Wines

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1984

Bottled: 2017

Abv: 51.9%

Colour: 5Y 8/8

Nose: Sea air, cinnamon apple oatmeal, baked pears, butterscotch, funky orange

Wow. Nice brine at first, and then this complex, fruity mixture of cereal. It doesn’t pull back on the nose at all. Even simpler stone fruit notes have some caramel to them.

Water brings out funk, as if it needed more to it. This nose has it all.

Taste: Cinnamon, apple, caramel, sweet buns, brown sugar

Simpler taste. Very jarring to go from a nose that was well put together to a simple taste.

The cereal aspect is well developed, but the rest is very, very simple. No peat to be found. It’s all cinnamon. I guess that’s development.

Finish: Cinnamon buns, apple, ginger extract, vegetal peat, funk

The finish is hot, earthy, and tries to pull some of the complexity of the nose. While I’m a fan of cinnamon buns, this isn’t exactly hitting the high notes.

Granted at least there are some of the Highland, earthy peat aspects here. So that’s something. I guess.

Conclusion: Too hot, not put together enough, loved the complex nose. The taste was a big letdown.

Now don’t get me wrong: Most people, even whisky fans, will say it’s just a bit hot. And they aren’t wrong. So it’s better than your average daily sipper. However, I’ve had better Caol Ila before. This is just a great nose with a bunch of cinnamon on the taste. I’m glad I split a bottle to try it, however, I don’t think I’d go for another one.


Caol Ila 36 1980 Douglas Laing Xtra Old Particular

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Distillation Date: September 1980

Bottling Date: November 2016

Outrun: 172 bottles

Cask Number: 11491

Cask Type: Refill hogshead

Abv: 57.4%

Colour: 10YR 7/8

Nose: Violets, Sativa weed (sweet, peppery, some diesel), powdered cement/coal, cigar smoke

Alright, now we got something going on here. Very flower based, either of the traditional grandma variety or the current grandma with Glaucoma.

Some earth, and just a wisp of tobacco. But not like smoking tobacco, so I’m not turned off.

Taste: Cigar/ash, lime juice, caramel, buttered mushroom, waxy orange

Very ashy. Probably the one Caol Ila in the whole current series that did that the best. When I had previously done some Caol Ilas, it popped up quite a bit. This is closer to those.

Some umami, some butter, and some wax. Interesting flavour profile all around.

Finish: Rich butterscotch, grass, burnt toast, leather, brine, musty

Long finish. Very light. At first, it’s nothing but richness, however given some time these flavours start slowly coming out. Lots of leather starts popping up, some musty aspects, and even some developed cereal.

Conclusion: Subtle, cigar dominant. Wish the leather was more near the taste than the finish, would have enjoyed this a lot more.

People know that I’m not a cigar fan. I’m biased as all get out. So when I say this isn’t for me, that’s my bias. However, I’m also not stupid enough to admit that cigars are unpopular in some way.

So this one may be for you. It’s a cigar filled whisky that has smells of floral weed on it. Lovely whisky all around. If I prefered cigars more, I’d wish I had a bottle.


Scotch reviews #937-938, Islay reviews #253-254, Whisky Network reviews #1490-1491

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