After a week of heavily sherried Macallans (here, here and here), let’s do a week of heavily peated Islays. All of these are, I think, from bourbon casks. First up, a young Caol Ila distilled in 2008 and also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I quite liked the last SMWS Caol Ila 2008 I reviewed and if this is close I will be happy. The SMWS tasting panel gave this the name “Totally tropical smoke”. Sounds promising; let’s hope it’s an accurate description.
Caol Ila 10, 2008 (59.8%; SMWS 53.305; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah, quite lovely with bright, carbolic peat mixed with some char, some brine and then quite a bit of the advertised musky fruit (charred lemon and pineapple). Gets saltier with each sniff, seemingly. As it sits the fruit recedes a bit and meatier notes come to the fore (charred pork). With more time still there’s a bit of cream but it melds nicely with the citrus and the smoke (smoked lime curd?). Water first emphasizes the coastal notes, bringing out more brine and some shells to go with it, and then the fruit pops out again.
Palate: Comes in with a bigger wallop of smoke and the brine. Rich, oily texture and quite a big alcohol bite (unsurprising at the high strength). Not as much of the fruit here but maybe it’ll show up with time/air and water. Hmm yes, a little bit but the peat also gets a bit rubbery. Okay, let’s add some water. Saltier here too with water and there’s some lime peel (both bitter and tart).
Finish: Long. The smoke is the story here, turning first quite phenolic and then ashy. As on the palate with water.
Notes: I loved the nose from start to finish, with water and without, but the palate didn’t quite match it. The smoke overpowers the fruit. Which is not to say that it’s an unbalanced malt or not a very good malt. I’d happily drink a bottle of this down over a month—and who knows, the fruit might expand on the palate as the bottle went down. As it is, this is excellent for a 10 yo.
Rating: 88 points.