Caol Ila 10 (Gordon & MacPhail)

After a month of reviews of un-sherried whiskies—well, the Glen Scotia 14 probably had some sherry casks in the mix—let’s end with one from refill sherry casks. This is a 10 yo Caol Ila released in Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice series at some point after the casks in that series started being bottled at 46% with new packaging. I think this was released in the mid-2010s, which would, I think, have been not too long after the revamping of the line. I almost always enjoy Caol Ila from sherry casks—and have a very good memory of this earlier G&M 10 yo from refill sherry casks (though that was in their old Cask Strength line). And I quite liked as well this G&M 10 yo from 2006 (also cask strength but in the new livery for their Cask Strength line). That latter one was from first-fill casks though. Well, as long as it’s better than the last sherried Caol Ila I reviewed—this sherry finished 7 yo that was an exclusive for K&L—I’ll be happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.

Caol Ila 10 (46%; Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice; refill sherry hogsheads; from a bottle split)

Nose: Leads with seashells and sweet mineral smoke, turning increasingly phenolic (Dettol) as it sits. Salt as well, turning quickly into brine as the whole gets more coastal. Gets a little meaty as it sits (ham and ham brine) and then the smoke picks up a leafy note. A few drops of water push the phenols back a bit and make it softer on the whole—there’s a fair bit of vanilla now.

Palate: Leads with an indistinct sweetness before the smoke comes crashing in behind—both phenolic and leafy. The texture is a bit too thin for my liking. No real sign of any sherry. With more time the tar pops out earlier and the whole becomes more one-note. Okay, let’s see what water does. Well, it pushes the tar back but doesn’t make it any more interesting.

Finish: Long. The smoke expands, getting almost tarry and there’s some cracked black pepper in there too. As on the palate with water—softer, less tarry.

Comments: I really liked the nose; the palate was less interesting, more of a blunt instrument. Must have been nth fill casks or hogsheads made from staves from nth fill butts—the sherry influence seems limited to a bit of rounding off of flavours and it might be the cause of the damping of the usual Caol Ila lemon.

Rating: 84 points.

(See here for Michael K’s review from his own bottle, which is not the one this sample came from; the bastard didn’t share any with me.)

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