Situated on the east coast of Islay across from the isle of Jura, Caol Ila (pronounced “Cull Eela”) is Gaelic for Sound of Islay or Islay Strait and is near Port Askaig. The distillery has a colorful history, having changed ownership several times, including having the actual buildings demolished and rebuilt as recently as 1974. Though there are single malt expressions offered, it is also used in blends like Johnnie Walker and Black Bottle. It is currently the largest distillery on Islay, and is notable for having a lighter, sweeter flavor than other single malts from this island. The malted barley is sourced from Port Ellen and is peat smoked at the same location as the malt for Lagavulin. After production, the whisky is aged and bottled in a warehouse in Glasgow.
Distillery: Caol Ila
Age: 12 years
Location: Port Askaig
Maturation: Bourbon casks
Nose: Brine, peat, beach, oak
Palate: Brine, smoke, green pepper, peat, artichoke, cucumber
Finish: Smoke, brine, mineral, toffee, charcoal
Adam – Surf’s up! I love the character in this Scotch. There sense of the sea is palpable, from the first whiff of the nose all the way into the finish. It’s perhaps the most complex brine I’ve come across, pairing well with the smoke that floats up off the palate. It’s not the type of clean or intense smoke that appears in some Highland malts, for the milder impression dances on the beach with the bonfire as the tide rolls in across the damp sand. It’s a smoke with character, rounded out along the edges with a little peat. I like that the taste evaporates out of your mouth relatively quickly but the warmth in your chest remains. I can imagine Cernunnos enjoying a dram of this Scotch for some reason. Perhaps a nice bridge to Islay malts for those that love the smoke of the Highlands and wish to explore further into the wilds. Come hither, fair maid…
Kate – This one takes you to a specific place, to Islay, to this distillery, to the coastline at a specific time of day. I like this one a lot.
Meghan – The nose reminds you of why it is good to be alive. I noticed a lot more smoke in this than others if that means more for me, I’m going to point it out. The nose also had a nice humidity to it that allows this Islay to be a summer scotch as well (after the sun goes down of course). It has a silky yet chewy body with tobacco and peat balancing a veggie blend of artichoke and cucumber. Most of all, I love the finish smoke, charcoal, brine, toffee… all the good things a Scotch can bring you- and at a very nice price point. Is this Scotch extraordinary? No. But it is better than average and a one to reach for any day of the week, no special occasion required.
Rose – Early morning, post-sunrise on the beach.