The Caol Ila 18 disappeared from the US around the same time as the Laphroaig 15. Unlike the latter, which was entirely discontinued, the Caol Ila 18 was still available in Europe until fairly recently (and is still listed on The Whisky Exchange’s website). I’ve no idea if that was/is old stock that hadn’t sold out or if it was only withdrawn from certain markets. At any rate, it was available in the US as late as 2007 (and maybe 2008); I always wanted to try it but never got around to buying a bottle because in those days I didn’t really follow whisky news and so had no idea that it was about to disappear. I do wonder what Diageo is planning for Caol Ila: the distillery produces a hell of a lot of whisky and so it’s unlikely that they discontinued/limited the release of this because they just didn’t have enough whisky in the warehouse to keep it going. And so now they likely have a whole lot of stock presumably previously earmarked for the 18 yo that is approaching 18 years of age. Simultaneously they’ve reduced the 25 yo from cask strength to 43%. Does this mean they’re maturing a lot of spirit closer to the 30 yo mark for a special release down the road? Or is it just that almost all of their stock is earmarked for blends? Time will tell.
Anyway, I managed to acquire two separate 60 ml samples of the Caol Ila 18 in trades in the last couple of years and here finally is my review.
Caol Ila 18 (43%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Farmy peat and smoke. An acidic bite (lemons?) but also a minerally, stony sweetness. With more time there’s more of a phenolic quality and also some olive brine. And the lemon keeps expanding and it switches to preserved lemon. Water brings out vanilla and a sweet, pastry-like note.
Palate: Starts out with the combination of lemon and stony sweetness. Acrid smoke right behind that but it’s not overbearing. Some vanilla and then after a few sips there’s sweeter fruit: some apple maybe? Mostly though this is about lemon and dry smoke. With a few drops of water the lemon intensifies and gets first a little more prickly and then a little sweeter; more vanilla here too.
Finish: Long. The smoke really expands after the swallow and then there’s a lot of salt intermingled with a bitter, tarry wave that crashes in and fades out leaving salt and ash in its wake. Water pushes back the bitter, tarry notes and keeps the lemon going longer into the finish, mixed with dry smoke.
Comments: Not bad at all, but also nothing special. As with the Laphroaig 15, no real reason to mourn this one’s passing too much, I don’t think. That is to say, I don’t think I’d be looking to replace this regularly if it were still around. (Also like the Laphroaig 15, this is rather obviously coloured with ye olde E-150.) Despite the low strength I liked it better with a few drops of water.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!