Whisky Tasting: Caol Ila 2014 Distillers Edition

This was bought as a 100mL bottle split, as a result don’t have the original label to refer to. So apologies if the Distillers Edition needs an apostrophe.

Caol Ila is a fairly new love, only in the last couple of years have I got to know this other Islay dram, I think initially through some stunning SMWS selections. Since then I’ve had both the standard 12 and a couple of the unpeated, as well as SMWS offerings, and am impressed by what this distiller offers.

It’s probably an under-appreciated, less fashionable Islay, not that owners Diageo seem to mind. Their singlemalts are only a small part of their huge production. At the same time it challenges all the talk of storage location, as barely a drop of Caol Ila is stored on Islay, and none bottled or barrelled there. Once distilled, large tanker trucks take the spirit to somewhere between Glasgow and Edinburghto barrel and store.

Regardless of the process of creation, Caol Ila is still a fine dram.

Nose: A lot of Islay, almost Lagavulin in it’s seaweedy oily iodineness. A little pepper, maybe a touch of brine, and the peat.

Taste: Smoke and pepper, some oil, some peat, and possibly a sweet note in there. A good full body but could use an extra punch in the flavour.

Finish: Not as long as I’d expected, fades quickly into just a hint of smoke. Hardly the big Islay the nose promised.

To me, it’s not the full oily punch the standard delivers.

And with a drop of water…

Nose: more smoke and pepper, less oil, a little sharper.

Taste: More pepper and spice, sharper and thinner (and it was a solitary drop of water into at least 20 mL).

Finish: shorter.

That drop of water certainly hasn’t worked for me. It’s added an almost Talisker sharpness, but without the oil or the brine. Sadly either with or without, I couldn’t find the wonderful Caol Ila citrus notes in this dram.

And the official tasting notes

Nose Wonderfully concentrated and clean, peaty, medicinal, with rich fruit, spicy and fragrant.
Palate Sweet maltiness strike first, then overwhelmed by peat smoke, intense, crisp flavours, and cinnamon spice.
Finish Long, rounded, robust and multi-layered.

Not my favourite Caol Ila. It’s a decent dram, a nice whisky but for me this distillery has a lot more to offer. If this is the only Caol Ila you’ve tried, don’t fear the others.