Caol Ila 25, 1984 (Bladnoch Forum)

Here’s a very untimely review to start the week and it takes me back to the time when my interest in single malt whisky had just gone from enthusiasm to pathology. I’d joined the then-vibrant WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum and was learning more and more about independent bottlers not seen in the US. One of these was the Bladnoch Forum. This was a side concern of Raymond Armstrong, then the proprietor of the Bladnoch distillery, and it offered single casks at unbelievably reasonable prices to members of the forum (though in practice you didn’t really have to be a member). I think this is pretty much where Martin Armstrong’s Whiskybroker business may have had its origin. These offerings included single casks of Port Ellen for less than £100 (unless my memory is exaggerating) and also a number of excellent older Caol Ilas. This is one of them. I acquired this sample in what may have been my first-ever swap, not long after it was released. I took a few sips then and put it away for another day. That day is here. 

Caol Ila 25, 1984 (54.1%; Bladnoch forum; hogshead #5388; from a sample acquired in a swap)

Nose: Cereals, lemon, dettol, mild smoke, ham. Gets sweeter as it sits and the smoke gets drier and more phenolic. More coastal with a bit of water: brine, kelp.

Palate: Comes in sweeter and more herbal/piney but all the stuff on the nose is right behind. Oily mouthfeel. The smoke intensifies here too with a few sips and the pork from the nose shows up but with more char. With water the smoke moves more in the direction of heavily charred wood.

Finish: Long. Gets smokier and more peppery as it goes. Some salt at the very end. With water the smoke gets more intense here too with more bitterness (charcoal and tar).

Comments: This is really good stuff. Who needs Port Ellen when we still have Caol Ila? It hurts to remember how affordable these Bladnoch Forum bottles were and how few of them I ever bought. If I’d known then what I know now. Fortunately, I do have a full bottle of another Bladnoch Forum Caol Ila 25 on the shelves (cask 5390, in fact) and I’ll console myself with that.

Rating: 90 points.

Thanks to bpbleus for sending me this sample many, many years ago.

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