Caol Ila is one of eight distilleries on the legendary isle of Islay.
Islay is a Whisky haven for Scotch fans, especially those who like their drams with a heavy bit of smoke. The distilleries on the island are well known for their peated influences, and Caol Ila is one of the best.
It was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson, who choose Islay for its beauty and isolation.
Since then it has changed hands a number of times and is now run by Diageo.
Caol Ila have a small but impressive range. What they don’t have in quantity, they definitely make up for in quality.
Their 18 Year Old is an especially stand out dram, with lots of flavour and a big character. It definitely lives up to the Caol Ila name.
The nose is full of rich earthy flavours, with lots of herbs as well. Heather, thyme and rosemary come through, with lots of flavour to them.
These are rich and go well with the grassy notes and more orchard flavours, such as blossom and oak that appear.
The oak as a distinctly honeyed taste, which is brilliantly sweet and thick alongside the earthy notes.
On the palate these flavours mix and mingle with big, bold seaside notes of salt and brine, and the Islay notes really start to appear.
There is an intense waft of smoke and peat that is full of flavour. This is perfect with the herbal, earthy notes and gives them a lovely depth and refinement.
The oak becomes bolder and sweeter, with the honey becoming more vanilla in flavour. This sits just behind the smoke and works wonderfully as a back drop for the peated tang to bounce off.
There is a fantastic malted quality to this dram as well, with lots of cereal notes coming through. These are perfect with the oak and vanilla, mixing well and becoming sweeter as the dram develops.
The finish is full of peat and seaside notes such as oil and brine. It wraps up well and ends with a gentle hint of vanilla.
Also published on Medium.