Revisiting: Caol ila

Today I revisit Caol Ila with two samples that have hung on from Feis Ile 2018 [WLP], and a third from TWE 2020 Old & Rare Show. Let’s go!


Caol Ila 10yo [2018] Ob. Feis Ile 2018 [btl #2472/2496] 58.2% WB86.23[95] WF87 WLP[p:86]

This first sample, I put in my [left] pocket before dashing out to attend the Feis Ile Blenders’ Masterclass [WLP], back in 2018. Two years later, having thought I’d lost it, I find that sample.

  • N: Oozing, inviting, citrusy > allium saline dried seaweeds, a pinch of cocoa powder,…. And what of that green tea and those langoustines? Yeah, why not.
  • T: Coastal and earthy dirty smoke with a sweeter citrus middle.
  • F: Sustained power and good form throughout over yet more coastal-vegetal, salted dry chewy citrus-sweet deep smoky action.
  • C: Highly competent youngish Coal Ila that easily overshadows the standard 12yo [WLP81], but at a cost [£100 rrp].

Scores 87 points


Caol Ila 25yo [2018] Ob. 43% WB88.44[865] WF90 WLP88

Time to revisit an old favourite.

  • N: A quietly oaky creamy lactose nose [as seen from another bottle I enjoyed in 2018], with a mild kipper-y waft that hovers lightly over vanilla-ey crisp green apples into smoky calvados. With a tempered-yet-present vanilla-steered [ex-] bourbon cask influence, this smells like refill cask-matured spirit that has seen some deliberate first-fill activation. Later on, it’s more on sour medicinal citrus with a more farmy [> over coastal] direction with some industrial chemical raisin hues in the mix.
  • T: Being easy [and fun] to read, everyone will offer up their own varied descriptors. Mine: chewy citrus-sweet briny vanilla into ashy citrus, though from memory, it appears less ashy and more ‘active’ than previous bottles I’ve enjoyed.
  • F: Being surprisingly firm at 43% abv, a rounded tasty colourful journey sees a smoky briny chocolate-y conclusion.
  • C: I find this more of a ‘modernised’ version compared to a number of bottles I’ve enjoyed in the last 10 years, those that appeared more refill-matured and gentile. That homogenous Jim Beam ‘vanilla’ quality continues to bug me, but perhaps this expression captures a fine balance between two defining eras. A beautifully packaged, high-performing, and well-priced classic, it remains.

Scores 90 points


Caol Ila 1982/2016 34yo Cadenhead Small Batch [264 bts] 60.1%  WB91.78[87] WF93

Gleaned from TWE Old & Rare Show 2020, this is expected to be a cracker, but let’s judge it on smell & taste and not by expectations.

  • N: 34 years old and at 60.1% abv, and I wouldn’t have guessed anywhere near either number if nosing blind. Dusty wax to begin with, but within seconds, a stunning bouquet begins its display as well as bakery delights from flapjack to Garibaldi biscuits, blueberry muffins, and raspberry sponge – and that’s only scratching at the surface at the sweet end. Further delights unfold.
  • T: Now that abv strength shows, as does any & every candy sweet from the corner shop that leans towards the bitter-sweet medicinal side – so confectionary boiled sweets briefly dipped in Benylin if you will. With so many descriptors here, however, I feel no point in even beginning to list them. The saline menthol quality reinforces this ones’ [idiosyncratic] bitter herbal medicinal character, yet it’s the textural element [on the palate, not the mouthfeel per se] which impresses the most.
  • F: Concluding with a succulent ashy > cocoa fruity [into a long long] < gentle saline barley finish, you can’t want for anything else after that delivery.
  • C: This proved one of the best BFYB Old & Rare drams of 2020. At £7 for 1cl, in hindsight, I should have considered buying the whole bottle.

Scores 93 points





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