Let’s keep the bourbon cask train rolling but with a bit of peat added to the mix. I acquired a sample of this Caol Ila 8 as part of a split of a few bottles of young Caol Ila last year. I’ve already reviewed a 7yo bottled for K&L. That one was a sherry finish and I thought it was just about decent. This one was bottled in 2019 for Douglas Laing’s Old Particular label. As it happens, there was another Caol Ila 8, 2010 bottled by Old Particular for K&L the previous year (I’ve not had that one). This one appears to have been part of a series called “The Elements”, representing “Earth”. Not sure what the other distilleries/releases in this series were–Air? Water? Fire? Or am I thinking of The Last Airbender? Will this actually have any earthy qualities? I tend to associate Caol Ila more with the ocean. Let’s see how it turns out. My opinion of the K&L 7 yo and this elemental business notwithstanding, Caol Ila is usually a very reliable malt.
Caol Ila 8, 2010 (58.5%; Old Particular, “The Elements: Earth”; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dettol, cereals, lemon, leafy smoke and a lot of salt. With time the citrus moves in the direction of lime and turns muskier and sweeter notes of vanilla emerge as well. Gets meatier as it sits. A few drops of water and the citrus turns to citronella, the meaty notes turn to ham brine and the sweeter notes merge nicely with them.
Palate: Pretty much as promised: sharp, direct, to the point. Drinkable at full strength but clearly a bit too hot. A big wave of mezcal’ish notes as I swallow. The pepper from the finish starts popping out earlier with time and there’s more char now with the smoke. With more time the mezcal retreats a bit and the sweeter notes from the nose begin to rise (vanilla, cereals). Ah yes, water pushes the mezcal back further and it’s now more balanced, more elegant with the citrus and the salt in good harmony with the phenols and the acidic smoke.
Finish: Long. The mezcal expands and there’s more pepper as well. The smoke gets a little more chemical with time (liquid smoke). As on the palate with time and water.
Comments: Loved the nose from the get-go but this was a bit too raw on the palate at first. If you like that mezcal quality in peated whisky—and some people do—then you would probably like this a lot neat. Water/dilution pushed those notes back a fair bit and made this a more classically elegant Caol Ila. I’d advise experimenting with water if you have a bottle.
Rating: 87 points. (Pulled up with water.)