Anyway, this is the second of this week’s Islay reviews (following Monday’s Bowmore). It’s from a refill bourbon hogshead which is usually a very good thing as far as Caol Ila is concerned. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2006 (58.9%; SMWS 53.328; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes out with pretty strong phenolic notes mixed in with lemon and salt and a bit of mezcal—which is to say it noses younger than its 13 years. With a bit more time sweeter coastal notes emerge—shells, uni. With a lot more time and air the phenols back off a little and there’s more citrus—lime peel, citronella. A few drops of water push the phenols back further and bring out some cream and some unexpected spice notes—is that cardamom?
Palate: Comes in powerfully phenolic here too but with quite a bit more smoke and char as well. Surprisingly approachable at full strength. With time the char recedes a bit but the phenols still pack a big punch. More fruit here as well now (lime peel, a bit of charred pineapple). Okay, let’s add water. Ah yes, now it’s really very nice indeed. The phenols are still here but in better balance with the fruit
Finish: Long. The smoke expands and then as it begins to fade some fruit begins to emerge. More fruit here too with time. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is one of the peatiest Caol Ilas I’ve had in a while. Neat, there’s none of the elegance I usually associate with bourbon cask Caol Ila, leave alone refill bourbon Caol Ila. This could go toe to toe with a big Laphroaig or Port Charlotte. But that’s not to say I don’t like it. It’s a bruiser neat but it’s very good, especially once the fruit emerges. And with water it gains a great deal more complexity and almost becomes a different whisky.
Rating: 88 points.