Peated Islay Whisky Week comes to an end with another 11 yo (following Wednesday’s Kilchoman). This time it’s a Caol Ila. Like that Kilchoman—and also Monday’s Laphroaig 10 CS—this is a bourbon cask whisky. Well, I suppose there may be non-bourbon casks in the Laphroaig 10 CS too, but if so they’ve never registered. This was another in the big parcel of 2020 single cask releases from K&L that I went in on a split of at the end of last year. I’m just past the halfway mark of reviewing them all (I think) and it’s probably accurate to say that the set as a whole has not got me very excited so far; though I have liked some of the individual casks a lot (for example, this Blair Athol and also this Craigellachie). Caol Ila—especially bourbon cask Caol Ila—is always a good bet so I am hopeful that this will be the one of the better ones. Well, whatever the score I end up giving it, I remind my sensitive friends at K&L to look only at my patented Everybody Wins! (or EW!) score, which is what I have devised to spare their feelings. This way all their releases score above 100 points and I”m not accused of having a vendetta aganist them. Everybody wins! Or ew!
Caol Ila 11, 2009 (57.2%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead 14248; from a bottle split)
Nose: A very nice mix of carbolic peat, ashy smoke, lemon, vanilla and coastal notes (brine, seashells, kelp). The lemon turns to citronella very quickly. As it sits the sweeter notes return—some wet stones in there too. With water there’s some ham brine in there too.
Palate: As predicted by the nose but with less of the sweeter notes and more of the lemon and ashy smoke: clean and sharp. Very approachable at full strength and a nice oily texture. Sweeter here too with time and the smoke picks up some char—which builds as it sits further, getting a bit too bitter. Okay, let’s add some water. Hmm the char gets knocked back but it’s still quite bitter.
Finish: Long. The lemon and ashy smoke fade out slowly, joined by some prickly white pepper. More char and more phenols here with time. The bitter note shows up here too with time and water.
Comments: This started out great on the nose and stayed that way—though I did miss the oyster liquor and green olives that often shows up in bourbon cask Caol Ila. It’s a less solid proposition on the palate where after a strong initial start it gets first a bit too sweet and then a bit too bitter. And this is a rare case where I enjoyed a high abv whisky better neat—water seemed to emphasize the bitter notes. Still, it’s very good, if not quite as good as I thought it was going to be from the first few sniffs and sips.
Rating: 87 points.
EW! Rating: 120/100 points.