Caol Ila: 12 Year ( Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 43% ABV)
Visual: Quite pale grain to gold.
Viscosity: Moderate to fast speed streaks of moderate to thick size.
Nose: Kippers. Smoke. Slightly oily. Coal dust. More coal dust with water.
Body: Vanilla. Coal dust. Peat. Beef broth. Salt and light medicinal. Toffee. Lightly creamy. Orange crème. Malt chocolate. Water accentuates toffee, adds slight black cherry hints, and brings out chocolate toffee. Also light watered down tar, and hints of turkey slices.
Finish: Soft cream and coal dust. Toffee. Salt. Water adds chocolate toffee and light oily character with tarry notes.
Conclusion: Caol Ila 12! The whisky that I have many times joked about never getting round to doing notes for, finally tasting notes. To no-ones surprise at all I love it. This is a great match of the harsher elements of Islay – for example the coal dust and the salt – with a thick, sweet melted toffee and chocolate base, all infused with a slight oily, tarry, set of notes which seem to come from the mixing of the two extremes.
I think that oiliness is really what gives it a distinct character to stand out from the other Islays – kind of kipper like on the lighter edge, tarry on the lower end. The whisky is always smooth, but it has a thickness that clings so that the present but not overly intense medicinal and smoke character pushes through more obviously than it otherwise would.
Or at least it is with touches of water. Yes, I skipped straight to talking about it with water. Sorry. Enthusiasm getting away with me. Anyway, neat it is more pure coal dust and smoke in the set of notes it shows – Still not to the intensity of Ardbeg or Laphroaig but still more single minded. The water breaks that up and allows the subtleties to show.
I think what makes this stand out is that, while the base sweetness is toffee, it is done with such weight that it is more chocolate toffee than anything else, which is very appropriate to match the notes it has. For comparison, Laphroaig is more intense, very medicinal, but matches that with a clean sweetness. This indulges the darker notes, whether they be sweet or harsh, and gives this balanced, more dark character throughout.
So, yeah, I finally did tasting notes and this is lovely.
Background: *ahem* “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. I love Caol ila, and have tried many expressions, yet never got around to doing notes on this. So, when it turned up in the calendar I was happy as Larry. Presuming Larry is happy right now that is. Drunk while listing to some Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Serious whisky needs serious music.