After weeks themed first for peated and then for sherried whiskies let’s now do a week on a single distillery. That distillery is Caol Ila, the Islay workhorse that is also probably the most dependable distillery on the island (only Lagavulin is permitted to register an objection). We’ll start with one that mixes both of the previous themes—peated and sherried—and move on to bourbon casks. This one was another from K&L’s set of exclusives from 2020. I quite liked the other Caol Ila I tried from that set. That one was an 11 yo from a bourbon cask, this one is a sherry finish and one year younger—and apparently teaspooned with Bunnahabhain. I am usually wary of sherry finishes but perhaps this one will surprise me. Let’s see.
Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (59.6%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of leafy smoke, phenols, lime, brine and other coastal notes (shells, kelp, uni). The salt and the lime intensify on the second sniff and there’s ink in the bottom now. As it sits olives emerge—a mix of kalamata and brighter green olives. The coastal notes expand with a few drops of water and there’s some ham brine in there too now along with a bit of cream.
Palate: As predicted by the nose with more sweetness as I swallow. Very approachable at full strength with an oily texture. The olives emerge here as well and the smoke picks up some char. The sherry begins to emerge slowly with graphite/pencil lead emerging through the smoke and the smoke turning a bit more vegetal. Sweeter with water and then a burst of pepper in the smoke.
Finish: Long. Pretty much a continuation of the palate though there’s a faint rubberiness to the smoke now. Water pushes the rubber back and pulls out more citrus (peel) at the end. The rest of the development is as on the palate.
Comments: This is a very well-integrated finish. The sherry does not separate; indeed, this comes across as a full-term maturation and older than its 10 years to boot. Now this I wish I had a full bottle of. I like it more than the 11 yo Old Particular.
Rating: 89 points.
EW! Rating: 150/100 points.