Yet another Elements of Islay bottling from the Whisky Exchange, this time the first Caol Ila bottled for the series, the CI1. I think the series is up to CI5 at this point, but this is the only one I’ve had. I don’t have a lot to say other than I know from previous experience that this will reverse my recent run of disappointing Caol Ilas.
Let’s get right to it:
Nose: Very tight at first, as you might expect given the very high abv. But lemon, olives, oyster liquor, brine all peep out from under the alcohol. A little later quite a bit of coal and phenolic smoke. The alcohol gets a little overpowering now. The lemon gets quite pungent as well, and with more time there’s a fruity sweetness and later still a lot of citronella and ash. I must say time mellows the alcohol burn a fair but let’s see what water does. Well, it makes that citronella explode and brings out a creamy, almost buttery note.
Palate: Olive brine and a lot of salt. Then, in very short order, lemons and coal smoke, and finally some sweetness. The second sip leads with a cereally sweetness and then come the olive brine and lemons. The smoke is still there but a little more restrained now. Quite remarkable how drinkable this is at 62.9%. Ah, a few drops of water and the burn disappears completely and the flavours come together in one unified package. More fruit too now: pears, apples. Some minerally, chalky white wine too.
Finish: Salty smoke and then the sweetness lingers. Water keeps the smoked lemon thing going in the finish.
Comments: Very, very nice. Textbook Caol Ila. As I already noted, remarkably drinkable without water; but it’s much more elegant with water. And with a lot of time and a little water it’s not actually very far away from some far older Caol Ilas I’ve had (and reviewed on this blog). This was a lot rougher, I think, when first opened. But time in an open bottle has mellowed it nicely.
Rating: 88 points.