Here to kick off a run of reviews of smoky whiskies is a younger and higher octane indie Caol Ila than the official 18 yo I recently reviewed. This is from the venerable English bottler Berry Brothers and Rudd, and is a vatting of two (presumably) bourbon casks. This was released in the US, and may have been an exclusive for the Total Wine chain. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 10, 2000 (58.5%; casks 309796+309881; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Bright phenolic aromas: gauze bandages in an old-time dispensary, antiseptic lotion (Dettol). Lemon and green olives as well and some vanilla below that. Gets saltier as it goes. Textbook Caol Ila and quite a bruiser at full strength. The olive and lemon intensify with time keeping the increasing sweetness of the vanilla in check. With water the vanilla and lemon and smoke are integrated nicely and there’s some menthol coolness now.
Palate: The salt hits first on the palate and the smoke follows close behind–there’s a lot of it but it’s bright with lemon and then salt again. A little bit tarrier on the second sip, but just a little. With more time it’s sweeter on the palate too but it’s still rather phenolic. With a lot more time the vanilla shows up and begins to get pretty strong. Okay, let’s add water. As on the nose, water ties everything together.
Finish: Long. Very phenolic and salty but the vanilla from the nose begins to peep out here. Less phenolic and certainly less salty with water.
Comments: Simple stuff, but simply pleasurable. This puts me in mind of the erstwhile Caol Ila Cask Strength, which was likely younger but just as powerful; it’s also not very far away from young bourbon cask Laphroaig in its phenolic punch. And it makes me wish I still had a bottle of that one and think that a bottle of this one (since sold out) would have been a fine consolation prize.
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!