Caol Ila 13, 2008 (Old Particular for K&L)

Caol Ila week began yesterday with a 12 yo finished in a Bordeaux cask. It started out well but I was not finally very enthusiastic about it. Today I have a 13 yo that was matured in a sherry cask. If I’m generally suspicious about red wine cask-matured whisky of any kind, I’m usually very excited to try Caol Ilas from sherry casks. Be it a richer sherry cask profile or a drier one, Caol Ila’s distillate usually matches it well. I certainly hope that will be the case for this one, a refill butt bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Let’s get right to it.

Caol Ila 13, 2008 (56.9%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very nice, very quintessentially Caol Ila notes of lemon, mineral peat and coastal notes (brine, oyster liquor) and green olives. Green peppery bite on the second sniff and a touch of cream. With time the cream expands a bit. A few drops of water and it gets softer still, with the smoke all but receding into the background.

Palate: Leads with peppery smoke with the lemon and some smouldering leaves coming up from below. Quite approachable at full strength with rich texture. Continues in this vein with a slight soapy note popping up. With time the lemon turns to lime, the peppery smoke turns to coal smoke, and the soapy thing goes away. Okay, let’s add water. More acidic with water and the smoke is ashier.

Finish: Long. The smoke crests with a touch of bitterness and then subsides into lemon and brine; that soapy note recedes, thankfully. With time there’s cracked pepper. As on the palate with water.

Comments: Must have been an nth fill sherry cask. There are a few signs of it if you look hard (the green pepper, the smouldering leaves) but if you didn’t know it was a refill sherry butt you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a refill bourbon hogshead. The more important thing though is that it is very good, if lacking the elegance of the best bourbon cask Caol Ilas of this general age.

Rating: 86 points.


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