After a week of Ardmore in the eastern Highlands let’s swing over west and south to Islay. This time it won’t be a single distillery that occupies our time but three different ones. And the peat will be heavier. First up: one of younger bourbon cask Caol Ilas that are usually rather good indeed. This cask was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd, which theoretically should also be a good sign. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s see.
Caol Ila 11, 2007 (55%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 319464; from a bottle split)
Nose: Bright carbolic peat mixed with lemon and ash and salt. The salt expands on the second sniff, picking up more coastal accents (shells, kelp). The salt expands with each sniff and there’s a mezcal note in there too that speaks of youth. With more time there’s some vanilla mixed in as well and the lemon turns to citronella. With water the mezcal recedes but the vanilla expands. It gets more phenolic too but I’m not sure that mix of vanilla and heavy phenols works so well.
Palate: Comes in with peppery smoke mixed with that mezcal note. Turns more savoury as I swallow. Quite approachable at full strength with full texture. The smoke expands with each sip and there’s more tar with time. More tar still with water but none of the softer, elegant stuff emerges.
Finish: Long. The smoke builds, picking up some char and then the mezcal and salt come in big time and have the last word. As on the palate with water, turning quite bitter (wet cigarettes) as it goes.
Comments: Much of the stuff I usually find in bourbon cask Caol Ila of this general age range is in here but it’s not in the proportions and intensities I like most—if that makes sense. It ends up on the more brutal than elegant end of the Caol Ila smoke spectrum. It’s a decent enough young peated whisky but no more. And if the price had been reasonable—which I am guessing it was not—that would be perfectly fine.
Rating: 84 points.