Another sherried malt after yesterday’s Balblair 21, and another K&L exclusive. However, this is not from the current run of K&L exclusives, of which I’ve already reviewed a few this month (Clynelish 23, 1995, Glen Moray 23, 1995, Allt-A-Bhainne 23, 1995). This was part of last year’s set of exclusive casks, I believe. Sherry-matured Caol Ila can be very excellent indeed. In this case, however, the maturation regime is not very straightforward. This whisky is apparently from something called a “sherry finished butt”. What is a “sherry finished butt”? In this case it is apparently a refill sherry cask that was filled/seasoned with sherry for a while, emptied and then filled with this whisky. If that seems rather bogus it’s because it is but it’s also almost certainly a practice far more rife in the industry than we would hope to be the case (see also Signatory’s “wine treated butts”. It also seems like a recipe for a whisky where the sherry will separate and float free on the palate or finish. Let’s see if that actually happens though.
Caol Ila 7, 2010 (59.5%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: Medicinal smoke shot through with bright lemon and cereals. On the second sniff there’s some oyster liquor, some olive brine and then a truckload of salt. The phenols seem to get more pungent with every sniff. A few drops of water bring out some cream but the salt still blasts through it.
Palate: The sherry is more apparent here with sweeter notes sitting on top of the smoke and the phenols which expand rapidly as I swallow. The salt pops out on the second sip as do the mezcal’ish notes from the finish. Beyond a little more sweetness there isn’t much development from here: phenols+lemon+salt+mezcal. Let’s see what water does. It pushes the salt back and brings out sweeter notes of vanilla and cream here too.
Finish: Long. Hints of youth begin to emerge here (mezcal’ish notes) from under the smoke and salt which hang out for a while. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is pretty big peat by Caol Ila’s usual mellower standards. Probably a sign of youth. The sherry aging covers up many of the signs of that youth at first but they begin to come through as it sits. Still, pleasant enough, though nothing I needed a full bottle of. And, oh yes, my fears of sherry separation did not actually come to pass.
Rating: 82 points.