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.
This is one wonderful whisky, and I feel lucky to have tried it – thank you Captain Ahab! I’m drinking it side-by-side with the Berry Bros. & Rudd 10yo Cask Strength Caol Ila; The higher strength in Cl1 makes a big difference – 62.9% vs. 58.5%; Cl1 also tastes older and has a different body, oily/creamy in a very yummy way. While the BBR emphasizes the bright, zesty, lemony side, the Cl1 is deeper, with those olive, briny elements that you mentioned, and chewy cereals behind the smoke & ashes. Both are great whiskies but Cl1 takes the prize.
I found this to be true of CS Caol Ila’s – very sharp edge when opening the bottle but mellowing out really nicely in time. Guid Scotch Drink and LAWS have reviews of the BBR version. It’s best to drink it on its own, its many charms are overshadowed by the Cl1.
If I only drank these kind of whiskies for the rest of my life, I’d die a happy man.
Glad you enjoyed the sample. Wish I had some of the other CIs too.
Seeing how good this was, I just ordered a Cl4 – I’ll let you know when it gets opened.