Caol Ila is known for its peated whisky, but once a year it distills a batch of unpeated whisky. That’s what we have in front of us today. The 15-year-old was distilled in 2000 and aged in refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts. Like other whiskies in the Special Releases series, this unpeated Caol Ila is bottled at cask strength (61.5% abv) for a retail price of $140.
The nose is malty, with orchard fruits, lemon rind and a vanilla cream. Caramelized apples dominate the entry, followed by hints of spice and freshly squeezed lemon. A sweet malty character appears late in the palate and into the finish, where it is complemented by some oak spice.
Overall, Caol Ila 15 year is a nice, delicate malt. Though I can’t help missing that added peat element of the standard bottlings. 8/10
Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Photo courtesy of Diageo
The Caol Ila distillery produces a lighter style of peated whisky, compared to other Islay distilleries. Located near Port Askaig on Islay, Caol Ila has been in operational since 1846, stopping production only twice: once in the 1930s and again during World War II. In the early 1970s, Caol Ila underwent a massive expansion. The distillery was torn down and built anew.
Photo courtesy of Diageo
While single malt expressions are available for purchase, the majority of whisky produced at Caol Ila is used in blends. Most obvious is Diageo-owned Johnnie Walker. It’s core expression is a 12-year-old single malt. Caol Ila adds the peaty kick to the blended whisky giant.
The nose for this whisky is peaty, light and floral. Honey contributes some sweetness, while orange peel pops up every now and then. Caol Ila 12-year is bottled at 43%. There’s a slight sharpness on the entry. It doesn’t last long and soon the whisky coats the mouth in an unexpected creamy way. Honey and a light peat are the first flavor notes to arrive. There’s an ashy smoke that develops alongside a floral note. The finish is longer than expected, leaving behind a semi-sweet smokiness with a hint of citrus.
In regards to peated whiskies, the rule of thumb is ‘the younger the age of the whisky, the more prominent the peatiness’. Twelve years is relatively young in that regard. Yet Caol Ila manages to keep the peat rather light. The whisky’s light nature and citrus note makes this a very suitable summertime porch sipper. Hardcore whisky enthusiasts may scoff, by I like adding lemon peel to my Caol Ila. Lemon peel or not, Caol Ila 12-year is a solid pour of Scotch whisky.
(Note: A review sample was provided by Diageo.)