Caol Ila 17, 1991 (Single Malts of Scotland)


This week’s recipe will also not post on a Thursday (today) but on a Friday (tomorrow). Instead, I have for you today the last in this week’s independently bottled Caol Ila triad featuring three different cask profiles.

The week began on Monday with a 12 yo bottled by DS Tayman. That one was a bourbon cask that had been finished in a Bordeaux cask. On Wednesday I posted a review of a 13 yo bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. That one was from a refill butt. I liked both fine—and the 13 yo a bit more than the 12 yo—but neither got me very excited. I already know that I like today’s 17 yo from a single bourbon hogshead more than either. That’s because this is taken from a large reference sample I saved from the bottle many years ago. Yes, unlike the DS Tayman and Old Particular releases, this is one of my signature highly untimely reviews. This 17 yo was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2008 by Single Malts of Scotland—back when my referring to Single Malts of Scotland as the Whisky Exchange’s indie label didn’t make Billy Abbot’s beard quiver with rage. I have the score I gave it then recorded in my spreadsheet but not my notes. Let’s see if the scores match across the years.

Caol Ila 17, 1991 (57.9%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon hogshead #961; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)

Nose: Mildly phenolic with coal smoke, cereal, a touch of cream and a savoury note (charred pork fat?). Salt emerges as it sits along with some cracked black pepper. With time the phenols recede and the sweeter notes come to the fore; a bit of lemon begins to peek out too now. Water pulls out more of the lemon (preserved now) and balances everything nicely.

Palate: Quite a bit more smoke here and quite a bit of a phenolic smack. It’s held its strength well in the 6 oz bottle and the texture is thick as well. Sweeter on the second and third sips, though the phenols are still here, dark and brooding. More coastal with time, with brine and a bit of kelp and squid ink. Let’s see what water does. It immediately makes it a fair bit saltier but otherwise it’s in the same ballpark.

Finish: Long. Gets more phenolic still with the salt emerging fully at the end. The smoke gets ashier as it goes. As on the palate with water.

Comments: This is pretty phenolic as Caol Ila goes. Might have been a more heavily peated batch than usual. Anyway, it’s very good and I’m very glad that past me saved some for present me.

Rating: 88 points (which is what I have recorded in my spreadsheet as well from over a decade ago).


 

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