SMWS 53.429 (Caol Ila) & Caol Ila 2014 (The National Choice) Cask #324802


We're beginning the week with two single cask Caol Ila's, one from a well established independent bottler and the other from a slightly lesser known one.

SMWS 53.429 (Caol Ila)

Region: Islay

ABV: 58.9%

Price: £??

This Queen Street venue exclusive cask is 10 years old. They don’t tell you the cask type on the bottle, but our guess would be a refill bourbon hogshead.

Nose

Initially on the nose we’re getting soil/dirt, cashew nuts, limeade, yeast, burning wood, along with strawberry’s and cream. As it sits in the glass it develops notes of white icing sugar, chlorine, salt water, crisp-breads, pistachios and orange peel. The nose is very typical of Caol Ila.

Palate

More dirty soil on the palate along with orange peel, white sugar cubes, lavender and musk. It’s very hot with the alcohol showing as spicy chilli heat. It’s hard to judge the mouthfeel as the spice is distracting, but we’re finding it pretty disappointing. It’s got a medium length finish with lots of that spice lingering. Not our favourite 53, but hopefully water will save this.

Nose (with water)

Reduced we’re finding less soil and smoke, and it has become more nutty with lots of pistachios appearing. There’s something here that we’re finding very chemically. As we go back to it we get notes of soap, and flat limeade. It’s now more citrusy with more of the cask showing.

Palate (with water)

There’s now a bitterness from grapefruit, and we’re still finding it a little too hot and spicy. We’re still getting a good level of smoke after adding water, but there’s now better balance with the sweeter notes. The mouthfeel remains disappointing, and there’s still too much spice on the finish, but it’s definitely benefited from dilution.

Conclusion

A dram that really benefits from water and when we say that, we mean it really benefitted from a large amount of water. Saying that, even with water it’s far from our favourite Caol Ila. We’ll go with a 6.5.

Score: 6.5/10

Value

We didn’t catch the price of this one, but we’re not recommending it at any price.


Caol Ila 2014 (The National Choice) Cask #324802

Region: Islay

ABV: 58.3%

Price: £91.00

This single cask release was bottled by CS James & Sons, a Glasgow based independent bottler, under their National Choice label. There’s not much information on this one as it looks like most of the bottles were shipped abroad, but we can tell you it’s a 2014 vintage and 350 bottles were released.

Nose

The nose opens with notes of lime, tar, burnt rubber, and a hint of smoke from a log burning fire. There’s a fair bit of alcohol here and it’s tough to get our nose into the glass. Going back to this we’re getting white vinegar, smoky bacon crisps, and burnt onions. This is quintessential Caol Ila.

Palate

On the palate we’re initially taken back by the alcohol heat. Pushing past this there’s a little bitterness from grapefruit, ash, lemon and lime cordial, spicy chilli, white sugar and peanuts. There’s also a nice hit of peat. It’s got a nice mouthfeel with a touch of oiliness, and a good length finish that’s just a touch hot.

Nose (with water)

With water there’s more vinegar, a little less smoke and peat. As we sit with it we notice a little more of the bourbon cask sweetness start to show through, but it remains largely unchanged.

Palate (with water)

Reduced we’re finding the palate is significantly more savoury and dirty. The alcohol is in better balance, the finish remains a good length and we’re find more bourbon cask sweetness that has replaced some of the peat.

Conclusion

Unsurprisingly given the consistency of the distillery it’s another solid Caol Ila dram. It’s a little hot for us, but we’d happily have a few drams. We’ll go with a 7.

Score: 7/10

Value

£90 is a little expensive, but this is just the way the whisky market is going.

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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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