Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Caol Ila: 20 Year (Scotland Islay Single Malt Whisky: 20 Years: 51.5% ABV)
Visual: Very pale greened grain.
Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.
Nose: Medicinal. Charcoal. Charred oak. Salt. Quite clean. Moss. Water is similar but smoother.
Body: Clean vanilla and caramel. Tinned tropical fruit. Tingling hint of alcohol. Water adds light custard. Cooked pork meaty notes. Oily and quite viscous. Light lemon.
Finish: Medicinal. Thick sheen. Oily. Slight tar. Mostly clean. Slight teacakes. Water doesn’t completely remove alcohol tingle.
Conclusion: This is a very clean Caol Ila. Very viscous as well in how it delivers the medicinal notes compared to the usual rather dry medicinal character of a lot of these. It really has a thickness to it, giving a thick sheen on your tongue rather than only evaporating to fill the mouth. It makes it a chewable medicinal style, with some, but not a vast amount of the Islay peat smoke coming in with it.
Flavour wise, while peat light, it lands smack solidly in the middle of what you would expect of a Caol Ila. Smooth vanilla and tropical fruit styling that I presume come from time spent in a bourbon cask – warming, with slight lemon notes and the expected salt character – it is not as unusual in flavour as it is in texture, but everything is done very smoothly indeed. So, the expected range, just polished beyond what you normally see.
It is not one that will convert people who weren’t fans of Caol Ila to begin with – but with the smoother character you find the vanilla and toffee being more present and offsetting the more medicinal notes – so it may tip someone on the fence over into liking it. Nothing is too hash, even the alcohol tingle feels more warming than burning – obviously its old age being put to good use. As long as you are not put off by Islay, then this is a smooth take on that, especially with water.
I have made this comparison before with other whiskies, but this does have small calls to Kiln Embers with its smoothness and salted lemon characteristics. This however is far more distinctively Islay and wears it more openly. A classic of Caol Ila, one that doesn’t break the style, but does it very well indeed.
Background: This is the final of the five whiskies had at Independent Spirit‘s latest Uber whisky night. This is an aged independent bottling of Caol Ila. I’m a big fan of all of Islay, and Caol Ila is definitely in the top 50% of them. Any more detailed than that is hard to call with the quality of the area. This should be an interesting one- while not the heaviest peated Islay, Caol Ila still has some character of it, and peat tends to vanish quickly with age. Should be fun. This is one of 316 bottlings for this release. Anyway, as always for these events – I was doing my notes in a social environment, with five strong whiskies back to back – my notes may be affected by other peoples thoughts, the drunkenness, and the other whisky I had. However, as before, for trying five expensive and rare whiskies like this I could hardly miss the chance to do some notes. Hope they are ok by you.