Back to one of our favourite Islay distilleries today as we look at two independently bottled Caol Ilas.
North Star Spirits Periodical Caol Ila
Price: £45.00 (500ml bottle)
This 7yo Caol Ila was bottled in 2022 after spending its life in a Port Octave. Only 60 bottles were released as part of North Star Spirits new Periodical range.
Initially we’re getting TCP, seaweed and iodine. Once you get past the peat there’s a little sweetness in the form of cranberry sauce, and frazzle bacon crisps. We’re enjoying the nose, but not really getting much of the port influence. Going back to and we can pick out some charred smoked bread, saline and wet dirt.
Initially we’re getting burnt bacon and maple syrup. The sweetness transitions in sugar syrup on a good length finish with a fair amount of smoke also lingering. Going back to after air and we’re finding it very earthy, with ash from a log burning fire, bbq’d brisket and brown sugar. 50% seems a good ABV for this as it has a good mouthfeel and just the right amount of alcohol bite.
Nose (with water)
Water brings out a little more of the port influence, but it’s still surprisingly faint. The smoke which water normally tames is still in full swing. Some of the meatier notes have been become more faint, but they’ve been replaced by more caramel notes, and we’re reminded of the skin on top of a burnt buttermilk rice pudding.
Palate (with water)
Similar to the nose there’s now more port influence, but again not by a huge amount. There’s now distinct notes of tomato ketchup and vinegar. The mouthfeel remains good. One downside is that it’s a touch hot now. We’re also finding much more earthiness now along with streaky bacon, and more spice. Finish is medium length. Personally, we’d skip water.
One member of our tasting panel reckoned this was much more reminiscent of a Laphroaig than a Caol Ila, and while not all the group agreed we all thought it wasn’t as noticeably a Caol Ila as a lot of drams are. We also all agreed its a great wee dram at a good price.
Caol Ila 2010 (The Whisky Exchange Exclusive)
This Caol Ila was bottled in September 2021 by Signatory Vintage exclusively for The Whisky Exchange, after spending 11 years in a refill sherry butt.
Initially we’re getting burnt coffee, hazelnuts, macerated cherries, chocolate covered raisins, smoky bacon crisps and vinegar. Giving it air and we can also detect buttered burnt toast, smoke from burning newspapers, a touch of dirt and some warehouse funk. It’s has much lighter smoke than we expected.
While the nose was a touch disappointing, there’s a nice balance of sweetness and peat on the palate. We’re getting brown sugar, tar and burnt ends. It’s got a good mouthfeel which is oily and coating. It’s a little hot with a touch too much spice on the finish, but at least the finish goes on forever. Going back to after air and there’s also notes of charcoal, dirt, ginger and back bacon.
Nose (with water)
Reduced we’re getting balsamic glaze, burnt wood, and some kippers smothered in ketchup. Giving time to sit and there’s also an ashy note, some oats, and white sugar cubes. As it sits in the glass we start to notice the alcohol more prominently on the nose.
Palate (with water)
Water helps tame the slightly too hot palate. The mouthfeel remains good. We’re not finding as much sherry sweetness as we were expecting, there’s also been a slightly reduction in the smokier notes. The finish has also developed a bitter burnt coffee like note. We’d recommend this without water, and advise you let it sit in the glass for a while.
Given the price this is a tough one to score as it falls a touch short on the nose, but delivers on the palate in spades. We’ll that is if you enjoy your drams bold as we do. We’re going to stretch to an 8/10, but appreciate some will find this too expensive.
- 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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