It’s been almost exactly three months since my last week of reviews of malts from a single distillery. That was a Kilkerran week (here, here and here). This week will feature three Caol Ilas. They’re from three different cask types: ex-bourbon, refill butt, and in the case of today’s review, a Bordeaux finish. I will confess that when I purchased this bottle I did not realize this was a Bordeaux finish. I generally avoid red wine finishes. But I was at the store without my reading glasses and the font size on the details on the label is very small indeed. That label is by a bottler I had not previously heard of: DS Tayman. Their website says their whiskies are available in the US, UK, Israel and Australia—so I assume it’s not an American concern, as I’d first though they might be. If you know more about them, please write in below. The bottles are attractive; the whisky is bottled at 46%; and the price—at least on this Caol Ila was fair: cheaper at Total Wine than the official Caol Ila 12 at 43%. What’s not to like? Well, maybe the red wine finish. Let’s see.
Caol Ila 12, 2008 (46%; DS Tayman; Bordeaux finish; from my own bottle)
Nose: Citrus (between lemon and orange) with sharpish, ashy smoke coming up from below. With time there’s some brine and a bit of apricot. Not getting much of the red fruit I usually find in red wine finishes. Continues in this vein with a bit of pencil lead and green bell pepper emerging. Softer and less ashy with a few drops of water
Palate: Comes in with the smoke leading and the fruit coming up behind (sweeter here). Good drinking strength and texture. As it sits the sweetness becomes more indistinct—hard to pick particular fruit. The wine separation happens earlier with time. Okay, let’s add a bit of water. It pushes the smoke back a bit and fixes the wine separation.
Finish: Long. The wine separates a bit here at first but then comes back together. The ashy smoke dominates here, turning bitter/tarry at the end. Water fixes the wine separation here too but it stays quite bitter at the end even as the indistinct sweetness from the palate lingers.
Comments: I liked this a fair bit at the start but it didn’t do so well with time in the glass. If you’re looking for a big smoky and sweet whisky this might do it for you but it’s not really one to drink slowly or look for any complexity in.
Rating: 83 points.