Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2023 & Caol Ila Fèis Ìle 2023


Continuing our string of Islay reviews, we're moving over to Diageo and the festival releases from Lagavulin & Caol Ila.

    Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2023

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 58.4%

    Price: £220.00

    Lagavulin's Fèis Ìle 2023 release is a 14 year old expression that has been initially matured in a combination of American and European Oak. It was then finished in Armagnac casks.

    Nose

    The nose opens with notes of grape must, lime juice, pepper, tobacco, and a nice hit of smoke. A little time in the glass reveals sea salt, oats, roses, and some Victoria sponge cake, complete with a buttery cream and jam filling. You can detect the alcohol on the nose, but it's not overwhelming, and we're finding that the finish has added an interesting dimension to the nose.

    Palate

    The smoke hits initially and lingers on the tongue through the long finish, eventually transforming into ash. There's a hint of spice, but the alcohol is well balanced. It’s also got a good mouthfeel. We’re finding drinking this is akin to chewing on an orange peel, with notes of ginger and orange marmalade. Additionally, there are hints of leather, lemon juice, rock salt, and lime cordial. The citrus flavours also linger on the finish.

    Nose (with water)

    Reduced were getting flint, frazzle crisps, and kerosene. There’s more notes from the initial casks now and less of the finish coming through. Saying that it remains enjoyable to nose. Going back we notice a little more spice, and a hint of ammonia.

    Palate (with water)

    The reduced palate has become much sweeter, it’s like we’ve dropped a few drops of sugar syrup in this instead of water. The peat remains, but once we get past the initial sweetness we’re finding that this is now a little spicier. Even though it’s significantly sweeter, we’re finding a nice balance between the sweeter notes and the peat. The finish remains a good length.

    Conclusion

    A solid Lagavulin release that we enjoyed. Saying that while the finish has added some interesting notes It’s still not the most complex dram we’ve tried, and we’re going to go with a 7.5/10.

    Score: 7.5/10

    Value

    Absolutely not. It’s a hard pass from us. At £220 the quality just isn’t there to allow us to recommend this.

    Caol Ila Fèis Ìle 2023

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 60.4%

    Price: £185.00

    Caol Ila’s Fèis Ìle 2023 release is a 13 year old expression that has been matured in a combination of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso seasoned butts. We don’t usually mention colour in our reviews, but it’s worth noting here that the colour is far lighter than we were expecting and we’d describe it as golden syrup.

    Nose

    It’s very restrained on the nose, but with a little effort we can pick out yeast, fresh raisins, and a faint hint of smoke. Giving it a fair amount of time in the glass brings out notes of filo pastry, rock salt, a little caramel, smoked back bacon and chocolate.

    Palate

    This is much better on the palate, but don't go in expecting a sherry bomb. There's a good amount of smoke, lime, cloves, aniseed, brown sugar, and some dark chocolate bitterness. It's a little too synthetically sweet for us, like aspartame. The flavours quickly dissipate to brown sugar sweetness for a good-length finish. The mouthfeel is fine, nothing special, and it's a little spicy with some lingering chili flakes.

    Nose (with water)

    Reduction has brought out dried corn, peanuts, a mustiness, like damp clothes, and a bit of gamey meatiness. All these notes dominate the sweeter notes, and we’re finding the sweetness that is here is now more like vanilla ice cream.

    Palate (with water)

    Reduction brings out more classic Caol Ila flavours. We're finding it drier with more red meats. There's also some basil and grapefruit juice. The finish remains of decent length and shows a mix of peat and savoury/sweet notes. The palate has significantly improved with water, but the nose was better pre dilution.

    Conclusion

    Caol Ila is known for its consistent spirit, which is why we are greatly disappointed with this release. It falls short compared to what the distillery is capable of producing, and we can't rate it higher than 5.5/10.

    Score: 5.5/10

    Value

    It’s another hard pass from us. This, like the Lagavulin, is ridiculously overpriced. Unlike the Lagavulin this is a pretty poor dram.

    • 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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