Signatory Vintage: Caol Ila 1999 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky. 11 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very light grain tinge.

Viscosity: A mixed set of thin and fast streaks, medium thickness and slow streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Moderate peat and smoke. Almonds or maybe marzipan. Pencil shavings. Water makes slight charcoal and a sweet touch of orange crème centres.

Body: Smooth. Custard. Kippers. Dry touches. Beef undertones. Salt lightly. Orange. Water makes sweeter, a mix of custard and broth. Grapes.

Finish: Smoke. Very dry. Peat. Vanilla and orange. Less dry with water. Fudge and chocolate come out. White grapes.

Conclusion: I’ve spent so long trying different independent bottlings of Caol Ila that it gets hard keeping track of them for mental comparison.  I have an image of the one I consider my favourite and all items are compared to that, but I fear I have built up that whisky too much in my mind compared to its actual stature.

This the fact that this impresses me and stands out on its own is amazing as it has to fight against not just great Caol Ila expressions but my romanticised memories thereof.

Caol Ila always does a great balance of sweet spirit against a moderate salty island character. This does that but also adds the oddity of light fruit cream centres and grapes. The elements are so light that they could be nigh illusionary, but they float there making the base flavours just that touch brighter and more drinkable.  The subtle contrast you find makes it that slight cut above the usual expectations.

You need a touch of water to fully appreciate it. Without that it is too dry, similar to a lot of SV bottlings I’ve noticed. I can overlook that as with water the grape rounding to the main body give the impression of a complex whisky that has spent a few short years in an unusual cask ageing. All this in a comparatively young and standard aged whisky. Very nicely done.

A very well done independent expression and well worth it for any Caol Ila fan.

Background: Drunk in the tasting rooms. I’m a huge Caol Ila fan, though notoriously I have never tried the standard expression. A wealth of independent bottling. Yep. Aged version yep. Unpeated version. Yep. Distillers edition. Yep. The bog standard expression. No. I really should get around to that at some point.