Caol Ila 27, 1984 (Old Malt Cask for the Whisky Barrel)

The week’s first review was of a 19 yo Caol Ila from a bourbon cask. That one was bottled by the Whisky Exchange in 2012. Here now is another Caol Ila bottled the year before by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series. This one is a fair bit older and is from a refill sherry hogshead. As much as I like bourbon cask Caol Ila, sherried Caol Ila—relatively rare as it is—can be very good indeed and the best ones are among the whisky world’s unalloyed pleasures. See, for example, this one and this one, both also from 1984 distillate. I am hopeful that this will be in the class of those. Let’s see if it is.

Caol Ila 27, 1984 (52.4%; Old Malt Cask; refill sherry hogshead; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Leafy smoke cutting through sherried notes of orange peel, raisins, pipe tobacco and pencil lead. On the second sniff there’s some charred pork and also a hint of savoury sulphur; the smoke is a bit sharper now. The coastal notes emerge as it sits (brine) but it’s not terribly phenolic. Softer with water with a bit of toffee emerging.

Palate: Comes in as advertised by the nose at first but as I swallow there’s a truckload of cracked black pepper and the smoke turns more phenolic. More citrus (orange peel) on the second sip and a lot more char to go with it. Gets saltier and sharper as it sits (savoury sulphur). Not much change after that. Okay, let’s see what water brings out. Well, it pushes the char and sulphur back but it doesn’t really bring out anything new. With more time the char comes back.

Finish: Long. The smoke takes over here, phenolic and charred and just a bit tarry. The pepper’s there too and makes the last impression. The savoury sulphur from the nose begins to emerge here with time. Less char and sulphur here too with water but the pepper is still here.

Comments: This is powerful stuff and very nice indeed if you like the mix of big smoke and big sherry. However, it’s a bit of a blunt instrument. Nothing wrong with that on its own terms but it does make me wistful for the refined elegance of older bourbon cask Caol Ila, or indeed teenaged bourbon cask Caol Ila.

Rating: 87 points.

Thanks to Sku for the sample.

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