It’s Diageo Special Release season and here I am with this unpeated Caol Ila that was part of the lineup in 2012. Timely! I’ve previously reviewed the 2009 and 2010 releases—I liked both of those a lot. While the 10 yo released in 2009 was indeed unpeated, the 12 yo released in 2010 was anything but. I’m not sure what the story is supposed to be with this 2012 release. I am hopeful though that I will like it more than some have (see Michael K.’s review from 2013 here and Jordan D.’s review from earlier this month here—Jordan’s sample came from the same bottle as mine). This one is also unusual in that it is from European oak casks. This essentially means sherry casks—bourbon casks are made from American oak and I assume they’d have specified if these were wine casks. Anyway, peated Caol Ila from sherry casks can be really excellent—I’m curious to see how unpeated Caol Ila from sherry casks comes out.
Caol Ila 14, Unpeated (59.3%; 2012 release; European oak casks; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Neutral at first, almost to the point of being grainy. Light mineral sweetness begins to come up from below along with a bit of plastic and very mild prickly peat. As it sits it begins to soften a bit—some pear, a bit of cream, a biscuity quality. With more time and air there’s some citrus (orange) and the biscuity note expands. With water there’s more of the citrus (lemon now), more of a coastal air. With more time the lemon turns to citronella and there’s a cereal note too.
Palate: Grainy and metallic to start with just a bit of sherry that separates as I swallow. A little bit of peppery peat here too. Pretty hot at full strength. As on the nose, a little more citrus as it goes but the metallic note expands too and it gets more cloyingly sweet. Let’s see if water can rescue this. Yes, much better: more citrus, more brine, more of the peppery peat, less of the metallic note, more integrated on the whole.
Finish: Long. Nothing much happening here other than the alcohol burn and a metallic note. Saltier with time. As on the palate with water at first and then it gets sweeter.
Comments: Well, this is the least of the unpeated Caol Ilas I’ve had and quite a disappointment. This must have been matured in nth refill European oak casks: there’s none of the character here that you might otherwise expect. Neat, this was in undistinguished blend territory. Water fixes a lot of the ills and pulls it out of the 70s. While my notes are not exactly identical to Jordan’s or Michael’s, I end up in similar territory score-wise (though Jordan, of course, does not score his reviews).
Rating: 81 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!