Caol Ila 30 1989 The Kinship Collection 2020 Hunter Laing

What was the occasion: I bought a sample set of very expensive whiskies, because I was curious. On the one hand, sometimes expensive things are worth it, like really good oysters or a steak (you cook yourself after lots of practice). Sometimes expensive things aren’t, like Beats headphones or online courses on how to be a man.

Also it’s an excuse to write reviews, and I need those (no I don’t, I’m way behind on my samples).

What whisky did we review? Caol Ila 30 1989 The Kinship Collection 2020 Hunter Laing, the fifth in the line of the Kinship Collection 2020, all bottled by Hunter Laing for Feis Ile 2020.

What does that mean exactly? From what I’ve gathered, this is a high end brand for Hunter, just under Old & Rare. Add to that it’s released for what I would argue is the most hyped Scotch festival (in Scotland), and you’ve got some heads turning.

What’s the distillery? I previously described Caol Ila as a workhorse industrial distillery, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Caol Ila makes a lot of whisky, is used in a lot of blends, and we get a lot of independent bottlings. Would I like it if Diageo offered maybe one or two interesting whiskies more, on a regular basis, perhaps in an ex-white wine cask? Sure, but before that I want the old Cask Strength to come back, as it was probably one of the best Caol Ila whiskies ever released.

So there’s hard work, lots of whisky, and there’s quality to it.

What’s my bias? Oh I love Caol Ila. Some would argue too much. Some would argue not enough and thus I am planning another review set of them, as I’m easily manipulated due to a WASP-y, suburban upbringing.

The most I ever spent on a bottle was a Caol Ila. There’s always money in the banana stand and there’s always an open Caol Ila in my house.

Also the last Caol Ila I had prior to this was chef’s kiss amazing, and for my 1,000th review I did a Hunter Laing 30-year-old Old & Rare release that was nicer than the OB Caol Ila 30th release. Suffice to say, I have high hopes for this one.

That said, I’ve had less-than-stellar Caol Ila too. The unpeated releases are meh to me. I want them to experiment with more casks, and they don’t. I want them to take the unpeated malt and throw it in an ex-Chardonnay cask that had father issues. You can really taste the lack of a second parental figure in the wine as it begs for your approval and you unfairly and maliciously mock it for something beyond its control.

Suffice to say, I’m excited about this whisky. Let’s see if it holds up, shall we?

Price: $8K for all 6 bottles (CAD)

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1989

Bottled: 2020

Number of bottles: 532

Abv: 42.4%

Colour: 2.5Y 8/6

Nose: Clean linen, old leather trunk (mix of dustiness, leather, and wood), Sprite, Twizzlers (red licorice)

What an interesting nose. So for those of you who haven’t experience older peated whiskies (please either imagine me saying that in a posh accent talking down to you or in a nice soft accent being understanding, no in between), peat slowly disappears and changes as whiskies age. It’s really dependent on the whisky and how it was made, but you get less smoke.

Did I write that to preempt the ignorant people who comment “was there smoke? He didn’t write smoke in his review”? Yes. 100%.

In this case, the peat has gone more to a dusty, leather note. The citrus in Caol Ila is more of the main star here: It’s very clean and there’s an effervescence note that I’ve tried describing but I always feel foolish, so I put “Sprite” cause… It smells like Sprite.

How have I done over 2,300 reviews? Courage over fear and a life of making a fool of myself.

All of that is to say if you go into this expecting what you get from younger peated whiskies, you’re going to have a bad time. Or a surprising good time.

Taste: Black licorice, apple juice, cinnamon bun, ash

More anise, and… apple juice? It’s really odd. I expected more lemon or lime, as that’s what I’ve gotten before, and instead I get the juice we only give small kids because it’s cheap.

Oh, I hate standard shitty apple juice and always have. I was that kid. And I’m not talking about this whisky having a good, expensive, non-alc apple cider note. No, this is pure sugar water that pretends to have Vitamin C. It’s a bit grating.

Also it’s a bit distant. The lower abv. is really hurting the taste. I enjoy the buttery/cinnamon note and the ash that develops, but it’s all underneath a layer of yellow sad fruit juice note.

Finish: Peach, smoked ham, pine, tar, baked apples

Fruity, meaty, some strong woodsy and tar notes, and the apple note has grown up and realised it can be better. Which is nice. Like when your old high school bully starts working at a factory and leaves you alone and maybe spends their time playing CoD. Good for them.

I like the baked apple note. Heck, I’m going to cut to the chase: I like this finish because it’s like old meaty Mortlach more than Caol Ila. Also it’s long as fuck and tasty. It’s not that complex, but it’s like a good thing in another whisky. That’s okay by me.

Conclusion: Frankly should have pulled this earlier and either used it to blend or released it as a cheaper offering. I’m 100% in the camp this was bottled because the nose was very interesting and the finish was like old Mortlach, but not quite as good as old Mortlach.

There’s nothing off about this whisky. There’s notes you may love (anise) or hate (anise, apple juice) in it, but there’s nothing to say it’s bad. If it was poured for me, I’d have a nice time. The finish really does last a long time. It’s interesting. Yes, I’ve had whiskies like this one that have had greedy angels that were better. It loses points for that, along with my bias against apple juice.

Again though, I have to speak about the pachyderm in the place, yes it’s too expensive. I’ve had Caol Ila whiskies that are better and cheaper. Yes, they were released years ago before inflation took some coke and went Super Saiyan (my understanding of economics is similar to my understanding of drugs and anime), however I really hope they pick something better for future releases.


Scotch review #1629, Islay review #429, Whisky Network review #2357

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