Caol Ila, often referred to as the workhorse of Islay, is capable of doing incredible stuff. People tend to forget about Caol Ila when their journey on peated whiskies progresses, but their core range always on point. Caol Ila 12yo is easily one of the best recommendations you can give when a starter wants to explore the realm of peat.
My appreciation of Caol Ila has been faded way too for a little while, I must admit. But after visiting the distillery last year I fell in love for the second time. You maybe won’t expect it, but the ‘Unpeated Style’ releases are definitely the best showcases of what Caol Ila’s capable of, in my opinion. Bottled at cask strength and stripped away from the mask that’s called peat, these releases offer a great variety of flavours. No release is the same, since they use a variety of cask types. Please go ahead and check out an earlier review on the Unpeated 14yo from 2012, which has matured solely on sherry casks.
The one we are tasting today, is the 15yo bottled in 2016. Maturation took place in refill American and European Oak, bottled at natural cask strength (61.5%). The spirit has to be good to survive, and boy it truly is:
Dark sweet flavours, but refreshing at the same time, leather, an array of orchard fruits and sweet malt.
Full, crisp and sweet, malty and leathery. With an edge for sure, but in a very nice way.
After a bold entrance, the galloping flavours continue while it slowly dies and leaves you with a smile on your face. Sweet fruits, freshly baked cookies, minerally and salty, nicely savoury and sligthly drying.
You can say a lot about Diageo, but I’m glad they do official bottlings of their workhorse, because I don’t know how my whiskylife would be without this reliability that’s called Caol Ila.