A nose to melt your heart and buckle your knees. A palate to pucker your face and wait…what? This is like falling asleep in the comfort of your own bed and waking up in a scuzzy brothel. Both great, but for different reasons. 😉
I simply can’t wrap my thoughts around the unnerving disconnect between nose and palate on this one. A truly great olfactory experience leads you to a slightly bitter and hoppy ride on the palate. IPA meets malt whisky. F*ck me, I’m stumped.
Ok…if you’re as unseated as I was, let me clarify. This is a really good dram. Well…quite good anyway. Peat ages well. Men bulge and women sag, but peat often mellows with grace. One need look no further than the adoration heaped in buckets on our beloved Port Ellen (may she rest in peace). The biting aggression and astringent notes of iodine and tar don’t necessarily shove off, but they do know when to back up a bit and allow some of the fruits to come forth again.
A couple dozen miles from the afore-mentioned Port Ellen we find Caol Ila; one of many thoroughbreds in the stables of Drinkmonster, Diageo. In terms of pure volume, if not the number of expressions it produces, Caol Ila is Islay’s most prolific distillery. Even so, official bottlings of Caol Ila with an age statement of anything beyond a dozen years are tough to find in these parts.
When the opportunity arose to cobble together a few OBs* of Caol Ila and assemble the troops for a range tasting, I was nearly salivating at the opportunity to taste this vintage. Approaching a whisky with expectations this high is almost never a good idea.
The nose is smooth chocolate and vanilla, sweet melons and aged wood. A bit of cherry, some mild pepper and very distant smoke. In hindsight, I’m almost willing to go up a point or two based on the nose alone. I’m a bit of a slow-go’er with whisky (well…until the alcohol sinks its teeth in and winds the gears a little tighter), so the nosing process alone can take quite some time before first sips. This is a whisky that absolutely demands this dedicated time.
Then we get to the juice splashing across the tastebuds. Hmm…tart and hoppy. Not dissimilar to some of the milder India Pale Ales I’ve tried. This is compounded by the absolutely teeth-smashing arrival (almost 60% at 25 years?! Bloody hell!). Skunky and weedy notes are very, very prevalent. It is highly possible this was magnified by being tasted just behind the rather stunning 18 year old, in all it’s understated glory, but I rather think it is simply the nature of the beast.
Though far from divine, still an excellent malt.
* OB: Original Bottling
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Pat