Blind Tasting #2: Caol Ila 2012 7 Years (Càrn Mòr)
Naturally, whenever I come across a heavily peated whisky, my mind immediately turns to Islay. However, in the modern whisky world that is far from a given. Ledaig and Ballechin are only two examples of heavily peated whisky from elsewhere in Scotland. But on day two of the Blind Tasting Competition I decided on Islay anyway, which turned out to be the right location after all.
The Càrn Mòr Strictly Limited Range has long provided whisky drinkers with affordable options and the Caol Ila 2012 7 Years is no exception. It matured in (refill?) sherry butts, which provided a gentle sweetness instead of an overpowering sherry influence. For its price of around 50 euro, this has a lot to offer.
But what did I make of it when I blind tasted this whisky? Well, I pretty quickly decided on Islay, but not Caol Ila. For some reason, mental images of Ardbeg sample bottles (the ones that are send out to bloggers like me) kept popping up. I decided to take it as a sign, and finally settled on Ardbeg as my entry, bottled at 46.6% (the ABV of the An Oa) and 10-years old.
It felt a bit younger to me, which I should have listened to in hindsight, but what if it was the actual Ardbeg Ten? On that off chance, I decided to enter 10 years as my guess. In the end I picked up points for alcohol percentage and region, but not age (even if you’re just two years off you don’t get any points). Obviously, I also didn’t score any points for distillery.
On a side note, bottler Morrison and Mackay recently changed their name to Morrison Distillers to reflect the transferring of sole ownership to Brian and Jamie Morrison last year. The bottle and labels have been upgraded (the picture above is the old design still), while the company has already returned to their distilling roots with Aberargie distillery, just outside Perth.
Caol Ila 2012 7 Years (47.5%, Càrn Mòr, 1324 bts.)
Nose: Notes of sweet, vegetal peat and pear drops with hints of mush bananas, tinned pineapple, sauerkraut and lemon zest as well. Some honeyed-glazed cereal too.
Taste: A lingering ashiness, and sooty as well, with a quick hit of spices (cracked black pepper and cloves), but also a touch of charred lemon peel, chocolate and peach.
Finish: Slightly briny and spicy. Soft yellow fruits, red apple and a prolonged smokiness.
A lovely, warming whisky with a relatively high complexity but lacking a bit of richness. This Caol Ila 7 Years from Càrn Mòr would quite possible have been a cracker at cask strength.
Photo: Best of Whiskies
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.