I’ll let it be known right from the start, I am a ‘peat freak’. If it’s smoky and peaty chances are I’ll be enjoying it so if my reviews seem to lean more favorably toward Islay whiskies or other peated whiskies you’ll know why now. Keeping the theme of entry-level bottles today I’ll be reviewing Diageo’s ‘other’ Islay distillery Caol Ila. I say other because Caol Ila is usually an after thought when compared to the other Diageo owned Islay distillery Lagavulin and not to mention the immensely popular Laphroaig and Ardbeg. Well just because it’s not as popular does that mean it’s not as good. Let’s find out.
Type: Single Malt Region: Islay
ABV: 43% Color: Amber -3 Body: Med
Nose: It’s very earthy, dewy grass, moss, damp tinder and of course peat bogs. There are some nice briny aromas as well like sea weed, coastal rocks, shellfish and fish oil. It has some smoke but doesn’t hit like an Ardbeg or Laphroaig would. Behind that there is a citrusy lemon aroma that I find refreshing. I’m also getting some faint vanilla, linseed oil, herbal tea notes. With water the smoke is intensified and we get wood varnish, sandalwood, coffee roast and celery.
Palate: Packs a bit of punch for only 43%. Briny notes initially up front with some apple slices and grapefruit mixed in there. Then those muddy earthy notes and a good amount of smoke(more campfire than tobacco or cigar) This is one that is benefited with water. There are some subtle notes underneath and the water helps make way for them. Now I get tart lemon, ginger, some wood spice and cappuccino.
Finish: Rush of sweet vanilla, bitter black coffee, hints of dark cocoa, soot, fish oil, citrus and the signature campfire smoke. The finish is rather long.
Overall: While not the most complex Islay whisky it still has enough going for it to keep you interested. Despite the lack of smoke on the nose the palate leaves a pretty good dent but for this whisky it’s all about the finish; long and a rush of flavors. And despite being aged on the Scottish mainland it still has some very typical Islay-type notes. Very easily drinkable and enjoyable.