Finally getting ’round to this one. Odd considering this was one of those ‘jump the shark’ malts for me. I remember a little too well a dialogue with a good mate of mine (a vested retailer) who was somewhat irked with my indignation at the nearly $200 price tag on this NAS unpeated Caol Ila that hit the shelves in late 2013.
That still sits wrong with me, especially in light of subsequent age-stated variants in the line (as high as 17, I think, locally at least) that have come in cheaper. Such is. Let’s not regurgitate the old cud.
Unpeated Caol Ila. Odd stuff. The 10 y.o. was a monster. Can’t say it was spectacular, but it was unquestionably singular, and there was enough behind it to make me an admirer. This one? Well…not as much, I’m afraid. That 10 was about six points higher in terms of abv and still had a ghost of peat glimpsed at the periphery. This one (seemingly quite young, I might add) is much more naked. Wood and clean spirit. Not a lot more. Spirity almost, if I’m being honest. Still a decent enough drink, but not even close to a bargain at these prices.
When a few of us visited the distillery in very late 2012, one of the distillery folks mentioned that Caol Ila had not done another run of unpeated spirit since (I believe) 1999. Each each successive release in their “Unpeated Style” line was simply the next successive year of a slowly maturing distillate. I don’t think that is the case anymore (if it ever was), but I’ll try to do some digging and follow up in the comments below.
If you can find it, stick with the 10 year old Unpeated from about eight years back (give or take).
Nose: Citrus (mostly lime). Minerally. White chocolate. Had a preconceived notion this would nose a little older. Vanilla cake. Touch of orange and melon. Herbal tea notes. Somewhat reminiscent of Canadian whisky in an odd way. Overall…quite nice and approachable. Not even remotely Caol Ila-ish.
Palate: Whoa. Big oily arrival. Grassy. Some Sauvignon Blanc notes. Oak and vanilla. Lemon. Some creaminess here. Still not Caol Ila. Would never guess blindly. Sharp woody notes. Dries up.
Thoughts: Better nose than palate. Ultiamtely lacking personality. Not bad, but almost too naked and lacking in character.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
The unpeated Caol Ila I usually see is the CS 15-year-old. According to the intel we have here, that’s the same distillate as the 10-year-old, just bottled 7 years later? That’d be pretty cool. But yeah, I’m still not clear on this “series,” especially with its NAS members.
I’ve never had one of these, but from the outside, they all just seem like curiosities. I’ve never really considered buying one for myself. I WOULD, however, consider picking one for my whisky club, because that’s exactly the kind of thing a club ought to be trying, in my opinion. So I’m slightly more interested lately.
Aside from Curt’s link to his own review of the 10-year-old, would anyone care to nominate one from the series as the most recognizably “Caol Ila” despite the peatlessness?
I can’t speak to the others but the 17 YO is fabulous. Normally I wouldn’t look twice at something $170 or more but I happened to be in a position where 2 bottles came to me for the equivalent of about $60 each.
It’s nothing like any Caol Ila I’ve had (and I’ve tried a few, mostly high proof) but it certainly doesn’t taste entirely unpeated.
I found the 15 year old to be one of my favorite malts. Packed with flavor, checked all my boxes, including being a unique change from the norm. Closest I could compare it to in style was the original Laddie 10.