Caol Ila 1997 ‘Unpeated Style’ (2010)
Last week I tasted two mystery drams (which means I tasted them blind), sent to me by Geert. They turned out to be the Glenmorangie Quarter Century and The Dalmore King Alexander III. Both were good but not great, and in my opinion not worth buying. Today I review the third and last mystery dram. This one turns out to be a lot more agreeable. Hell, I was thoroughly impressed. I actually already bought a whole bottle, just hours after I finished my sample.
Caol Ila 1997 ‘Unpeated Style’ (57,6%, OB, 2010)
Nose: This is supposed to be unpeated, but it certainly doesn’t smell that way. There is plenty of peat, or at least campfire smoke and smoked bacon, but it is not overpowering. Some lovely crisp newspaper and brine as well. Also chestnuts, vanilla and a nice oakiness. In the end there is a hint of sugary sweetness.
Taste: Smoky, malty and plenty of smoked barley and toasted oak. A nice saltiness as well. In a way it reminds me of much older Caol Ila, maybe even a salute to Caol Ila from the early eighties.
Finish: Long, with smoked salmon and black pepper.
I was happy to find out that this mystery dram was an affordable Caol Ila, and not some über-expensive, unattainable whisky. I do wonder how it is possible that an alleged unpeated whisky can taste so peaty or smoky. It can’t be because of the use of refill casks, because only first fill bourbon casks were used. So the only other option is that they probably don’t put much effort into cleaning the equipment before running a batch of unpeated whisky through the stills. Anyway, whatever the reason, the most important thing is, that this is a very good and (if you can still find it) very affordable cask strength Caol Ila.
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.