Caol Ila 10, 2006 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Let’s do another young sherried Caol Ila to start the month and let’s hope I like it better than the other one I reviewed a few months ago. In fact, I really hope I do as I have a full bottle of this on my shelf—I had forgotten that when I acquired this sample. Like that one this is a vatting of four first-fill sherry casks. Will this show more sherry influence than that one did? Let’s see.

Caol Ila 10, 2006 (60.2%; Gordon & MacPhail; first fill sherry casks 306183+4, 306186+7; from a bottle split)

Nose: Slightly rubbery right off the bat and then there’s a fair bit of salt and phenolic peat below it. This is first-fill sherry? The rubber expands on the second sniff. After a bit the rubber begins to subside and sweeter coastal notes begin to develop (kelp, oysters); quite medicinal now (dettol). Water pushes the rubber back almost all the way and pulls out a lot of lemon to go with the salt and the coastal notes (which now include kippers). Another splash and now the rubber is gone and the lemon, salt, disinfectant and oysters have free rein.

Palate: Very salty here too to start and there’s some of that rubber (edging into plasticine here) and some mezcal-like notes. Very hot at full strength but not unapproachable. Not much sign of the first-fill sherry here either. A small sip or two and then I’m adding water. Yeah, no real development as it sits: time for water. Ah yes, much better now with sweeter peat, the full medicinal complex and olive brine. A second splash of water is better for the palate too, bringing out some ashy smoke and white pepper.

Finish: Medium. Not much happening here at full strength—the salt, the alcohol and the mezcal-like floral notes are pretty much all that register. As on the palate with water and much longer.

Comments: Rather raw neat, this improves a lot with water and improves even more with a lot of water. Still, it doesn’t really add up to more than a powerful, young peated Caol Ila. Which is to say it’s very good but nothing that approaches 90 points in my book. I’ll be curious to see how my bottle mellows with time and air once I open it. And if you have any idea how four first-fill sherry casks could have produced minimal sherry influence yet again, please write in below.

Rating: 87 points.

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