Caol Ila, by nature, is a fairly delicate spirit. To those that have been around the block a time or two, this may seem almost counterintuitive. To those that have been around the block more than just a couple of times, you likely know exactly what I mean by ‘delicate’.
So how does a whisky that peats its malt to about 30ppm (maybe a little higher?), much like its sister distillery Lagavulin, retain a ‘delicate’ character? Really not sure, to be honest, but it is true that despite all of the billows of smoke and peaty underpinnings, the whisky somehow manages to exhibit a rather surprisingly light and brittle citrus character.
Again somewhat contrary to what most might expect in a ‘delicate’ malt, Caol Ila is one of the more oily-bodied drams you’re likely to encounter. I think it is this latter characteristic that allows the spirit to be so malleable in its various releases. Independent bottlings, in particular, are very subject to enormous variation. Most, of course, also boast high enough alcohol content to not require chill-filtration, allowing the fats and oils to remain. Flavor coagulates, then clings to all nooks, crooks and crannies of the mouth. When you have a spirit that retains viscous pockets of flavor in this manner, you’re bound to have an end product that can adapt to many a nuance and deliver it in strength and confidence.
This 22 year old Caol Ila is from a barrel that was selected and bottled exclusively for Calgary’s Willow Park Wines And Spirits. Great cask selection, I should add, as this is one of the best Caol Ila’s I’ve yet tasted. The flavors herein are absolutely not typical of Caol Ila OBs (original bottlings from the distillery), but are bold, balanced and beautiful. I love this whisky.
Nose: Wow what a nose. Lovely tightrope walk between white fruits and aged mellow peat. Some eucalyptus and a little pepper. Smoke and nice rich chocolate. Some nice baking spices too. Somehow still mellow and showing very restrained peat.
Palate: Love the way the sweet and tangy notes arrive and spread across the tongue. Smooth and a little waxy. Chocolatey and fruity. Some orange-y notes. Sweettarts candies. Oak at just the right age. Delicious and holding the perfect linger. Typical Islay green apple ebb and fruit skins on the back end of this one.
Go see Dave Michiels down at Calgary’s Willow Park Wines And Spirits for this one before it’s gone.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Pat