Caol Ila 12, 1999 (G&M)

Caol Ila 1999, G&M
The last sherry matured Caol Ila
of similar age from Gordon & Macphail I reviewed was a bit of a sulphur bomb. This one, I am happy to report, is much better—I opened it for our local group’s July tasting and it was very well received. I am intrigued to see what effect three weeks or so in the open bottle may have had on it. Let’s get right to it.

Oh yes, this is the second of two simul-reviews along with Michael Kravitz at Diving for Pearls. As always, we will only see each other’s notes once the reviews have been published. (And here is Michael’s review.)

Caol Ila 12, 1999 (61.6%; Gordon & Macphail; first fill sherry butt #305326; from my own bottle)

Nose: A big phenolic welcome along with a bit of rubbery sweetness which transitions to raisins. A fair bit of salt too and some citrus (lime). With more time there’s quite a bit of kalamata olive and brine. Some cereally notes after a few more minutes and a touch of ham too and then the rubber seems to come back (but it’s nice rubber). Okay, time to add water. The rubber turns to ink and graphite and there’s more of the ham.

Palate: Very drinkable despite the very high strength. Sweet ashy smoke and peat make the first and second impression. The smoke expands quickly and gets an inky undertow. The citrus peeps out from below. On the second and third sips the citrus jumps out earlier and it’s somewhere between lemon and orange; there’s also a bit of that vegetal/bell peppery note that sherried peated Islays often exhibit, but only a bit. The salt comes out earlier too. With water it gets sweeter but the sweetness is married nicely to the citrus (definitely dried orange peel now), and there’s a tarry, inky note anchoring it all. The salt gets pushed back. There’s just a hint of apricot now along with the citrus and the bell peppery note expands as well.

Finish: Long. The inky smoke gets a little tarrier as it goes and salt crystals begin to pop now. Less salty and a little sweeter with water.

Comments: Despite being from a single first fill butt this doesn’t have the depth of this lovely 10 yo G&M bottled a while ago from three refill sherry casks—but it’s still pretty good. And it’s pretty close to what it was last month. Again, I wish Diageo, who obviously have their pick of the casks, would put out sherried Caol Ila.

Rating: 87 points.

5 thoughts on “Caol Ila 12, 1999 (G&M)

  1. This time Michael and I are much further apart on notes and score. This is probably down to my much higher sulphur tolerance. He gave it only 82 points and found lots of sulphur-related notes on the nose and palate.


    • It’s a B- versus a high B, but the difference that I find fascinating is the completely different palate experiences. If I found citrus and tar rather than chlorine and gunpowder, my score would have been higher.


  2. When I did a tasting at the distillery, the staff person running it mentioned that they don’t fill many sherry butts. There was some hand waving about the spirit not working well with sherry, but that’s obviously BS. Either way, sherried Caol Ila will most likely continue to be the province of the IBs.


  3. Um, let me revise my previous comment. If you’ve already had another high strength malt earlier in the evening then this feels mellow and rather drinkable at full strength. On the other hand, if this is your first malt of the night then you get that 61.6% right across the face.


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