Caol Ila, located on the world’s home of peated whisky, the Scottish island of Islay, is this island’s number one distillery in terms of capacity. Though its peated malt is one of the components of Johnnie Walker, the distillery features a full core range of single malts. But that wasn’t always the case, as until 2002, Caol Ila’s single malt would appear only in the Flora & Fauna and the Rare Malts range. But from 2002, the regular 12-and-18-year-old as well as a Cask Strength version (about 10yo) appeared, joined the next year by the 25-years-old. Since then, Moch – without an age statement – and the Distiller’s Edition, with a moscatel finish, joined the core range. But Caol Ila’s single malt is not just available on the distillery’s official bottlings, it’s also highly available to independent bottlers. Gordon & Macphail, Elixir Distillers, or like today, Signatory Vintage, have bottled dozens and dozens of casks from the distillery located in Port Askaig. And that’s what we’re going to try today, with a Caol Ila 2010 Signatory Vintage.
Caol Ila 2010 Signatory Vintage
Today’s Caol Ila has been distilled in 2010 and filled into a refill sherry butt where it matured for 10 years, before being bottled in 2020 by Signatory Vintage. The butt #316643 gave an outturn of 599 bottles, filled at the cask strength of 59.5%, without colouration nor chill filtration. You’ll be able to find a bottle from a few German and Dutch shops between €110 and €130.
Tawny with a beautiful orange hue.
(Neat) Immediately you’re greeted with Islay’s maritime peat. Bonfire smoke, drying kelp and driftwood intertwine gracefully with rich and elegant sherry notes of dried figs, strawberry jam, leather armchairs and a touch of orange marmalade. The alcohol is well integrated and at no time your nostrils are in danger from the ABV. Maybe sandalwood too.
Reduction hides a bit of the other aromas behind the smokey notes of your glass in the morning after you had a peaty whisky the night before.
Neat, you get a rich thick mouthfeel, and here you get the hit from the alcohol. Leather, dried figs, raisins and smoked chocolate are met with citrus notes, pepper and ginger, providing fireworks of flavours in the mouth. When things calm down, the smoke wraps itself around the tongue while the ginger fades a bit, leaving place to a thick dark chocolate cream dessert.
The addition of water provides orange notes on top of the cream dessert, with ginger chunks but without the spices heat.
Jaffa cakes (or Pim’s for the Frenchies) with a gentle smoke that lingers on and on.
Reading a lot of whisky reviews, I’ve observed the reviewers I follow writing that indy Caol Ila are almost always good. I’ve not tried many, but for the few I’ve been able to try, I can but agree, and this one can join the list of very good CIs. You have here a “typical” sherried peaty Islay, not surprising, but delivering what you expect from it. A very good combination of peat and sherry notes, both on the nose and on the palate, and that’s really all I was asking from it. I’m not disappointed.
Thanks Arnaud for the sample.