Caol ila is a whisky of almost legendary significance, and this 18-year-old malt is certainly a must-try for any spirit connoisseur. Every whisky enthusiast is sure to have heard of this Islay malt which is used heavily in popular blends like Johnnie Walker and Black Bottle, however, those who have actually sampled its delights are considerably fewer in number. Nevertheless, if you get the opportunity, you should take the chance to see how this fine spirit stands up on its own.
While not as coarse as many other Islay whiskies, Caol Ila has a distinct oiliness to it with a full mouth feel that is surprisingly strong in alcoholic tang when compared to some of its competitors. Its appearance is also especially attractive – this pale golden liquid is easy on the eye and is especially complemented by its olive green bottle.
When sampling a whisky, the nose is always important, and here Caol Ila does not disappoint with its rounded, warm overtones that are strong and yet not excessive. There is a soft peatiness that is definitely there in the background with a delicate interlacing of smoke that is very addictive. The overall effect is of a sweet fieriness that conjures up beach front barbecues and seaside bonfires, however under the surface there are other, more subtle flavours that add depth to the spirit. Citrussy aromas of apricot and lemon mix with herbal and oaky notes, and there is even an element of peppery spice that makes this an especially exciting dram.
Once it hits your palate, however, this whisky truly comes into its own. At first, the sensation of smooth mellowness with a hint of sweetness, a touch of acidity and just the slightest hint of salt. Savour it for a little longer, and a wealth of other flavours come to the fore. All of the peatiness of the nose creeps in, together with the ashy smokiness of the bonfire that you detected earlier. However, the taste is anything but direct, and there are other, more subtle flavours that linger in the background – cedar wood, almonds, the saltiness of the sea and even a hint of chocolate are all there to be enjoyed in this encompassing, warm liquid.
After the richness of the palate, connoisseurs may be slightly disappointed by the warming finish from this fine whisky, which, although comforting is not as impressive as may have been hoped. The earlier smokiness still pervades the finish of this spirit with a touch of sweet peat which is reflected from the nose.
Overall, this is a very fine whisky which ranks right up there among the greats. With an especially interesting nose and a delicious flavour, this spirit promises a lot and in most respects does not disappoint. This is a well-rounded dram with not too many peat overtones and just enough sweetness to tantalise the tastebuds. A perfect choice to end the day or to share with like-minded friends.