Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition 2012 Review

Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition 2012141

43% abv

Score:  88/100


Well, now.  This was a pleasant little surprise.  The 2012 edition of Diageo’s Distiller’s Edition Caol Ila came right out of left field for me.  Not that the whisky itself was unexpected, you understand (I believe these are annual releases), but the quality of the dram was a treat. 

Rightly or wrongly, I tend to look at the Distiller’s Edition range as sort of ‘surplus to requirements’ for the most part.  I’ve tried a couple that were quite decent, but I find more often than not the marriage of what Diageo dubs its ‘Classic Malts’ with a short period of quirky cask finishing (moscatel, amontadillo, amaroso, etc) feels somewhat contrived and not necessarily leading to an integrated whole.  To be blunt…a couple I’ve tried seem almost concocted by an amateur.  There is a disconnect in there somewhere that leaves me wanting.

I think a lot of these cases this has to do with the decision to mutate a rather delicate spirit in the first place.  It’s kind of like throwing a heavy pack on a scrawny l’il guy and telling him to head for the summit.  The heft is simply too much in some cases.  I’ve tried at least three (and if I recall correctly, a fourth) of these Caol Ila DEs (2009, 2011 and this 2012), and can happily say that this one bears the burden of an extra weighting of sweetness the best of the bunch.  Maybe a shorter finishing time on this edition?  Dunno.  Either way…yep, we like.  Not quite as much as unadulterated Caol Ila, but a worthy addition to the rather slim range available from this distillery. 

Here we have an Islay malt that manages to retain the sweet, citric clarity of Caol Ila, but dresses it up with a little bit of spice, fruit and sweetness.  Good execution, even if I’m not entirely behind the concept.  Grab a bottle of this one if you can find it.

Nose:  Very sweet smokiness.  Peat, as to be expected.  A bit of BBQ sauce (likely via the meeting of smoke and tangy sweetness).  Rock candy.  Iodine.  Citrus zest and juice.  An odd out-of-character jammy note.  Nice balance struck between some very disparate individual notes.  Overall…a rather great nose. 

Palate:  Apple and just the faintest hint of banana candy.  Smoke.  A little barley and sweet wine notes.  Some wet rock (y’know…that flinty, dusty flavour).  Grilled seafood.  Some Granny Smith apple at the back end brings it full circle.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

3 thoughts on “Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition 2012 Review

  1. Robert

    Funny you review this now. Tonight I did a HTHTH with Knob Creek 50% ABV, KC Single Barrel 60% and Four Roses Small Batch LE 2012. (BTW I preferred the KC SB, then the FR SB LE). After, as my tastes are moving back to scotch with the cooler weather, I had a small dram of Longmorn 15 and finished with one of Caol Ila 12. The Caol Ila, as always, was a wonderful end to the day. I adore this whisky! It is very consistent bottle to bottle and wonderful from first to last dram, which is why I can’t think of trying a “finished” version of it. I believe you when you say it’s good, but I find the unadulterated version so good, why bother. I already have decided that I prefer the base Glenmorangie and Ardbeg to the trendy finished versions (LaSagna, Quinta Tarentino and Ardborg), so why pay more for a finished Caol Ila (Caol Wino?). The same for Bruichladdich, as the simple Laddie 10 to me is the pick of the rather large BL litter. If the base spirit is good, it really doesn’t need a funky finish.

  2. Jeff

    Interesting review. Although I’m looking forward to both the 12 and the DE (once the Scotch Guru and I get some more stragglers and ropers dealt with), my impression is that you feel about this one sort of like I do with the Glenkinchie DE and 12; the former’s a change, but maybe not an improvement on the latter. The DE line certainly hasn’t been a complete failure for Diageo, but it does kind of call into question whether all of those sherry casks should have gone in the direction they did (couldn’t they have left at least some for the Lag 16?).


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