Caol Ila Connoisseurs Choice 2003 (Gordon & MacPhail)
It’s become a bit of a thing. We go to Islay. We buy a bottle (or two) for drinking around the hotel (or B&B) and in between times. And consequently that bottle becomes an object of some sentimentality. It helps, of course, when the whisky turns out to be brilliant.
This G&M 2003 was just such a case. A dozen years old and a firecracker of a malt. Five of us on Islay last September found this bottle intriguing enough to cough up a few quid for when we saw it at both the Co-op and the Whisky Shop. We pooled our schillings, popped the cork and poured the first round and not a face in the room could help but light up in appreciation. Brilliant dram, this. Clean and pure and, while not exactly a classic Caol Ila, it is certainly a classic malt. Gordon & MacPhail have some of the best barrels in the industry, and it’s a treat to see them starting to hit the shelves at 46% instead of the old 40% or 43%. Appreciate it much.
One of our crew brought back a bottle with him, but I was butting up against my limits of what I could bring back (who am I kidding? I demolished those limits). Not to mention, my suitcases were bursting at the seams. Fortunately a few bottles of this landed in Calgary not too much later and I was able to scoop one. I think maybe we’ll save that one for a session of trip reminiscences with the boys at some point a little further down the line.
Nose: Smoke, peat, ash and iodine. All of which we’d likely expect. None too delicate here. Oil. Earth. Citrus. Minerally notes. High cacao dark chocolate. Green rock candy. More chocolate emerges with time in the glass, milk and white now. Vanilla. Some sort of fruity reduction. A hint of bubblegum.
Palate: Oh wow. What an arrival. Smoky and fruity. The color belies how sweetly, juicy this is. Usually this much mouthwatering juiciness comes in darker heavily sherried malts. Some citrus again. Smoked shellfish. Lovely linger on all the right notes. Smoke just builds. Again…that touch of bubblegum.
Thoughts: Gorgeous variant on a Caol Ila. I think I’d guess Laphroaig blind.
– Images & Words: Curt
Although some might have better lines into some various distilleries than others, where do you put Gordon & MacPhail, overall, as a bottler?
Sláinte! – I guess the first Saturday in June is Double Sláinte! Day.
I recently was able to snag a G&M Caol Ila 10 YO cask strength that was available in Halifax. It was absolutely brilliant. I opened it with a couple of friends in May. I’m looking forward to coming back to it. Something about CS Islays…
There is something about a cask strength Caol Ila…
I tasted a few (including some older ones) at an SOT master class a few years back. And (ok I know it was NAS but this was a few years ago) the CI OB CS at 58% is probably the best CI I have ever tasted, with the possible exception of the G&M 10 YO from Halifax mentioned above…which I got just before it was delisted…