Caol Ila 15, 2004 (G&M)


As I said on Monday, this is Caol Ila week. I’m tempted to say it’s my first-ever Caol Ila week but on Monday I also admitted that I’d listed a whisky on the list of potential reviews for February and March that I had already reviewed in January. For all, I know I did an all Caol Ila week in December as well.

Monday’s review was of an 11 yo that was finished for three months in an amontillado sherry cask. I quite liked it. Today’s is a 15 yo and is also sherried but this one was a full-term maturation in a refill sherry cask. What kind of sherry, I don’t know. I opened this bottle a month and a half ago. I split half of it with friends and have been drinking my half down steadily since. Indeed, I’m finishing the last pour tonight while writing this introduction. The notes themselves were taken some weeks ago when the bottle was just past the halfway mark. It’s been very consistent from start to finish.

Caol Ila 15, 2004 (58.9%; G&M; refill sherry butt 306618; from my own bottle)

Nose: Dry smoke with quite a bit of salt mixed in—not the usual Caol Ila brine but more of a fino/manzanilla quality. Quite a bit more phenolic on the second sniff and then the usual Caol Ila coastal complex begins to emerge (brine, kelp, oysters, seashells). With time there’s citrus—between preserved lemon and citronella. The smoke has more of a mineral quality too now. Water brings out more of the seashells and citronella and also some ham brine and olives. After a bit it gets sweeter (cereals).

Palate: Comes in as promised by the nose with the salt expanding fast as I swallow. Rich texture. The salt expands dramatically with each sip but the smoke weaves through it. It takes a lot of time and air but the smoke and salt finally calm down and start letting the shells and more organic notes out; a little sweeter now too. Okay, let’s add water. Ah yes, water makes it more balanced: the smoke, the salt, the coastal notes, a bit of sweet vanilla. After it sits a bit longer there’s quite a bit of cracked pepper too.

Finish: Long. The smoke and the salt jostle for ascendancy before calling a truce. The sweetness makes it into the finish too with time. As on the palate with water.

Comments: Neat this is a bit brutal as Caol Ila goes (and was more so in the top half of the bottle). With time/air and water it blossoms fully—the palate and finish in particular are more interesting with water. The sherry influence is restrained and on the dry rather than rich end of things.

Rating: 87 points.

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