Consistency has become a swear word almost for whisky enthusiasts. And I get it. It is associated with creating a bland whisky (be it a blend or single malt) by throwing together many, many casks, eliminating any and all singularities. Whisky geeks don’t want consistency, they’re looking for something new with every bottle they open. And yet, Caol Ila should be cherished for its consistency.
It’s Islay’s largest and most factory-like distillery. All other distilleries on that legendary whisky island offer a more romantic view of the whisky world, which makes it hard for Caol Ila to compete. Furthermore, most of the distillery’s output goes into blends and its parent company has many other distilleries that receive much more attention (and marketing budget).
Yet the distillery’s core range of single malt whiskies is excellent and honestly undervalued. The 12 and 18 are lovely, while the 25 is ridiculously affordable by today’s standards. It might just be ten times as cheap as a Lagavulin of comparable age. Most importantly, when you buy Caol Ila, no matter from which source, you know it is going to be good. Hooray for consistency. Hell, putting together the Caol Ila 12 must be the easiest day of work for Diageo’s team of blenders.
So, while I’ve no doubt the team at The Whisky Exchange did their due diligence before picking their latest exclusive release, it probably also wasn’t too hard a job finding a good Caol Ila. From the stocks of Gordon & MacPhail no less. I’m looking forward to this one: 15-years-old and matured in a refill sherry hogshead.
Caol Ila 2005 15 Years (57.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for TWE, C#301507)
Nose: Rather medicinal with a touch of cough syrup but also a whisper of new tennis balls, gauze and plaster. Some iodine too, and rather briney. There’s a hint of tobacco and mint in the background, as well as apfelstrudel. Taste: A little darker and peatier than the nose suggests, although the medicinal notes make an encore. Smoked paprika powder comes to mind, but also mint, figs and some hessian, as well as touches of tobacco leaves and roasted peppercorns. Some peanut skins too, followed by almond oil and green olives. Finish: Hints of chocolate truffles, mint and coastal peat smoke.
Surprisingly vibrant and medicinal for a 15-year-old Caol Ila, this stands out between all the young, sometimes pre-teen Caol Ila we’ve seen in recent years. Available from The Whisky Exchange.