Caol Ila 13yo Fèis Ìle 2024 & Murray McDavid Caol Ila 5yo (Benchmark Collection)


We've got a couple of Caol Ila's up for review, one official release from Diageo and another from IB Murray McDavid.

Caol Ila 13yo Fèis Ìle 2024

Region: Islay

ABV: 54.4%

Price: £185.00 

The 2024 Fèis Ìle release for Caol Ila consists of 13-year-old spirit that was finished for 3 months in ex-ruby Port French oak casks. A total of 1,404 bottles were released.

Nose

Initially, the nose is a bit tight, featuring bonfire smoke, though not overly pronounced, alongside eucalyptus, menthol, warm buttery brioche, and strawberry jam. As it sits it in the glass other notes emerge, including burnt twigs, ash, and a meaty note that might have made us guess there’s sherry in the mix, as well as tar and icing sugar.

Palate

On the palate, dry earth, bonfire smoke, and just peat in general are the dominant notes , complemented by sweet rice paper and vanilla ice cream. There's a slight briny note, reminiscent of smoked kippers. Despite the ABV, the alcohol is well integrated, with virtually no harsh spice, although a warming sensation of paprika and sweet chili lingers on the tongue on the finish. Notes of red fruits, including red grapes, cranberries, and raspberries, appear as we sit with it. The mouthfeel is good, slightly oily with a touch of syrup.

Nose (with water)

Adding water to the nose brings out more smoke, tar, and ash. The alcohol is weirdly now more detectable, along with cardamom and cinnamon spice. The nose becomes drier, evoking dry twigs rather than buttery brioche. The sweeter notes diminish, leaving primarily jam and ginger.

Palate (with water)

Adding water to the palate introduces notes of dry earth, lavender, and hibiscus. The sweetness is enhanced, with flavours of caramel syrup and raspberry ripple ice cream becoming more pronounced. Sadly, there's also an increase in spiciness, particularly pepper. The mouthfeel remains good; it's still slightly oily but now more syrupy.

Conclusion

On the palate this is a good dram, showcasing pleasant fruity notes, a nice hit of peat, and great alcohol integration. The nose does let it down slightly being a touch tight for our liking, but overall we’re impressed and this exceeded our admittedly low expectations.

Score: 7.5/10

Value

if we weren't familiar with Diageo's usual pricing strategies, we might have thought this was mispriced.


Murray McDavid Caol Ila 5yo (Benchmark Collection)

Region: Islay

ABV: 51.5%

Price: £46.00

This small batch release consists of 1,803 bottles, produced from spirit distilled in 2018. It underwent a four-year additional maturation in Madeira wine casks before being bottled in 2023.

Nose

On the nose, the whisky opens with notes of peanuts, lime juice, orange peel, and sponge cake. It’s got a nice balance between sweet and savoury notes, and we’re finding alcohol is surprisingly well integrated for something this young. Going back and there are notes of maple syrup, gingerbread dusty cupboards, dried earth, and bonfire smoke. Not the most complex nose, but what is here is enjoyable.

Palate

On the palate, we’re getting flavours of ginger cake, ash, Bombay mix, dry roasted peanuts, and orange juice, intertwined with notes of dirt and a white pepper spice that lingers beyond the other flavours on the good-length finish. The mouthfeel is decent, and the ABV feels right. Revisiting brings forward additional notes of lavender, icing sugar, and saline solution.

Nose (with water)

With water added, the nose shifts to emphasise burnt wood and brings forward more peanuts and savoury notes, reminiscent of hand-cooked crisps and Cornish pasties. While the undiluted nose was more balanced and preferable, this version isn't unappealing. Additional aromas of musk, hibiscus, and lime juice emerge with patience.

Palate (with water)

With water added, we’re finding a very watery mouthfeel, with some increased sweetness. The flavour profile gains a very ashy character, accompanied by sweet and salty popcorn. The finish maintains a good length, although a slight bitterness starts to emerge towards the end.

Conclusion

This dram isn't for everyone; it's somewhat simple and definitely rough around the edges. However, while it likely won't be anyone's dram of the year, it has enough interesting qualities to make us want to revisit it from time to time.

Score: 7/10

Value

You'd struggle to find a peaty whisky from an independent bottler at a much lower price these days.

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  • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
  • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
  • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
  • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
  • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
  • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
  • 4 - Below average. Passable.
  • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
  • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
  • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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