Caol Ila 2004 Connoisseurs Choice – Wood Finished

Thanks to /u/devoz for this sample

There have been a few Hermitage releases, and each time I see them, I have to look up exactly what they mean.

Hermitage is a French wine Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the northern Rhône wine region of France south of Lyon.

There you go, copied from Wikipedia, so I’m 66% sure it’s kinda correct. If it was about the love lives of various Spiderman clones, I’d be more confident.

So with Caol Ila 2004 Connoisseurs Choice – Wood Finished we have various casks of Caol Ila that were aged in first fill and refilled ex-bourbon casks, then finished for three years in these AOC controlled region red wine casks.

I could not tell you if I could tell the difference between a Hermitage Red Wine Cask aged whisky and a non-Hermitage Red Wine Cask aged whisky. However there are requirements that the wineries follow, and the chance is that the casks haven’t been overused or dried out. On the other hand, maybe because it’s so expensive, maybe they use the casks more? A neutral cask has a lot of use in wine aging… I’ve been told.

So let’s see how the whisky after the wine treatment, shall we?

Price: € 82

Region: Islay

Vintage: 2004

Bottled: 13.03.2018

Age: 13-years-old

Cask Types: First Fill Bourbon & Refill American Oak for 10 years then Hermitage Red Wine Casks for 3 years

Cask Number: Batch 18/002

No. of bottles: 3950

Abv: 45%

Colour: 5YR 5/10

Nose: Banana, ash, lime, anise

Spice, ash, citrus. So it’s a Caol Ila. Glad they got the labels right on the cask.

Only thing that’s a bit different is some bit of anise and that banana note. Not used to those, but they aren’t bad.

Taste: Ash, cayenne, tarragon, mint, brown sugar

More ash, some caliente spice, and then a ton of herbal notes. Guess we’re taking that whole “herbes de provence” thing from France seriously, eh?

Joking aside we’re missing some of the acidity, though the different sharp herbs are fun. Brown sugar is balancing this out.

Finish: Ash, banana, moss, vegetal, smoke/anise

Very typical Caol Ila finish with ash and vegetal/smoke notes going on. That said, the interesting banana note is back, so that’s fun. I feel like the finish is missing something, like complexity, or subtle notes though.

Conclusion: Nice, wish it was at cask strength, think I enjoyed the 2001 better. Should re-read that.

Okay, I’m back. The finish has similar issues to previous releases. This one is ashier than the pepper-y version last time. There’s an interesting herbal/banana theme going on here, though the nose doesn’t live up to it.

I’ll say this: For all the fanfare of using high-end, specialty casks, why would you water this down? Like, maybe 50%, but 45%? It’s a cash grab. While this isn’t pricey, and I think Caol Ila fans will enjoy it, I wonder why you would buy this versus the standard or maybe even save for a different cask strength offering.

78/100

Scotch review #1354, Islay review #370, Whisky Network review #2029

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