Another two reviews from the Fèis Ìle 2022 releases. This time we're exploring Diageo's portfolio, looking at Caol Ila and Lagavulin. Both matured in the same cask types and priced the same, this will be interesting.
Caol Ila 15yo Fèis Ìle 2022
The 2022 Fèis Ìle release by Caol Ila was matured in refill American Oak Hogsheads and finished in virgin American Oak casks. The distillery released 3,702 bottles. We’re hoping the £165 price tag is a reflection of the quality of the whisky, and not a cash grab…
Interesting, not what we were expecting. It’s got a very pleasant vanilla sweetness on the nose and feels quite balanced. We’re getting a little lemon, capers and delicate oak spice. There’s smoke here, but it’s mild and restrained. There’s some peaches here, a little barley malt syrup with a hint of alcohol in the background.
A rounded mouthfeel with heaps of brown sugar, vanilla extract and more of that peaty punch we expected. There’s a slight raw spirit note towards the back of the palate that’s drying our mouths out, and we’re finding it slightly bitter. The finish has a decent length and leaves lingering vanilla and oak spice in the mouth. Going back we’re getting sponge cake, some peaches from a tin, a little white chocolate and some earthy smoke.
Nose (with water)
Oh, it’s considerably more woody now, the oak has awoken. We’re also getting freshly cut grass, cough syrup and pine. There’s a mild menthol note here we’re guessing the virgin oak has imparted. Going back after some time, that menthol note has really grown, and along with it has come some rosemary and furniture polish. We’re not quite sure whether the reduced nose is beneficial, it felt more harmonious before but the water has brought out an aggressive side.
Palate (with water)
The rounded mouthfeel is now filled with earthy peat smoke, vegetal flavours, and some lime zest and juice. There’s still the vanilla sweetness here, but it’s been pushed into the background. The alcohol feels fiery now, a little chili heat and charred oak. The finish maintains a decent length but it’s drier and spicer now.
It’s a nice Caol ila. That’s both a compliment and a criticism. There’s nothing wrong with the whisky but we’re not finding anything that’s exciting us. There’s a deluge of independently bottled Caol Ila’s, even in only refill bourbon, with similar characteristics and a substantially lower price tag. It’s missing some of the classic maritime notes we tend to get from Coal Ila, but that’s personal preference as to whether it’s a positive or negative. Overall we can’t really recommend purchasing this.
Lagavulin 12yo Fèis Ìle 2022
Like the Caol Ila, this release was matured in refill American Oak Hogsheads and finished in virgin American Oak casks. The distillery released 6,336 bottles. 12yo? Suddenly the Caol Ila looks like a bargain…
Slightly sour at first, acidic but on a chemical way rather than fresh citrus. Behind this you get a nice juxtaposition of charred oak and peat smoke, but it’s a little hollow. It’s earthy, dry dirt, with a floraility that we get only when nosing it from a certain angle.. It reminds us of lilies a bit. Giving it some more time in the glass, strong vanilla from the oak starts to appear accented by toasted macadamia nuts, wet cardboard, campfire ash and perhaps some olive oil.
Initial nuttiness, salted peanuts this time, following into some baked apples with a hint of cinnamon spice, black pepper and dry oak. There’s some sweet refined sugars here, but it’s actually very mouth drying overall. The mouthfeel isn’t bad, it’s reasonably oily, and we’re getting some of those green olives and tar here. The finish however is short to medium length, with dry wood shavings and leaving us disappointed overall. There’s also a lack of overall balance, the alcohol doesn’t seem to gel with the cask - it’s not overpowering but just feels somewhat disjointed.
Nose (with water)
More of the roasted nuts start to appear, with the addition of over toasted pine nuts. There’s solid vanilla still coming through and pleasant kiln smoke. We’re getting more barley sugars now, and we’d say that water has sweetened the nose overall. There’s is a pepperiness coming from the alcohol and the aromas of old wooden furniture towards the end of the nose.
Palate (with water)
Similar to the nose, it’s sweeter with sugar water and a touch of honey. The mouthfeel has lost something, with only a few drops of water we’ve lost a fair amount of the oiliness we enjoyed before. It also feels a bit flatter, it’s really just peat and sweetness now which is fine but not particularly exciting.
Now we’ve had criticism over our rating scale as we believe that price matters to the average whisky drinker, and this bottling is a perfect example of our point. Without sounding controversial, there’s no reason for anyone to buy this at the £165 price tag unless they’re completing their Lagavulin festival collection. Now the whisky itself is okay, it’s nothing special, not offensive but we’d recommend just buying the standard 16yo if you really want a bottle of Lagavulin.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
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