Whisky Review: SMWS 53.322 Caol Ila 1989 30 Years Old “Carpe Diem”

Style: Smoky and Sherried

Nose:
A few coal fire sparks light up fifty shades of smoke on the nose – bonfire ashes, briquettes, katsuobushi and dark cherries emerging from the dense, cloudy haze. The sherry sweetness slowly spread across to the outer rims and wrap around the spirit gently. Charred oak, marshy bog and minerals leading to zesty lime and kumquat at the core. Cod liver oil, sour raspberries and roasted cobs at the tail. Very nice.

Palate:
Sweeter than what the nose has suggested, begins with dark fruits and tanghulu tightly wrapped in barbeque smoke. Followed by cherries, muscovado sugar and strawberries playing a brighter and fruitier tone. Just as the sherry has the upper hand, the tobacco leaves and maritime peat smoke cut in at the right moment and give the sweetness a more balanced and solemn complexion. Bonito and charred oak slipping under to base level, a quick peppermint zap and the zesty citrus core begins hymning towards the end.

Finish:
Chargrilled maritime influence is increasingly visible as the other side notes are slowly waning off. Spearmint, dark sherry swaying to and fro with a gentle zing.

Thoughts:
This Caol Ila has exceeded my expectation because the interplay between the sherry and smoke is so intricate and complementing on a nuanced level, it is like a perfect yin and yang in action. Probably a bit on the heavy side for some, however, it is beautifully aged, with edges thoroughly polished and remained incredibly vibrant throughout, loved it. I have my fair share of excellent 80s Bourbon Caol Ilas, but this sherry one really stood out. Top dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[51.7%| Independent Bottling| 1989 Distilled| 2020 Bottled| Single Cask| Natural Cask Strength| 1 of 444 Bottles| Refill ex-Sherry Butt| **]

Esmond

Whisky review: Caol Ila Aged 25 Years 1978

Style: Spicy and Smoky

Nose:
Coal fire incinerates and gives a slight bitter, deep and sooty start. Feeling damp as well after it is given a good maritime brush. Fiery spice peaks and pinches in quite early in the form of hot chilli oil. Then the other facet of Caol Ila shows up – lemon confectionaries, floral rims and a bit chalky. Orange blossom and a dash of brine. Sea side mineral rocks, spice continues to rumble and pierce through towards the end.

Palate:
An explosion, much more than just a small burst, of flavours and spice takes place as it strikes the palate. Lemon citrus, chalks, minerals and smoke are compressed and strapped onto the powerful chilli spice bazooka. Crushed liquorice roots, lime cordial lightly drizzling onto orange sponge cake. Abundant but velvet peat gradually infused with chocolate oak and creates a deep but bitter-ish base notes. Sweet aloe vera and smoked kelp lingering towards the end.

Finish:
Lemon bars, malt biscuits with a touch of smoked bacon. Quite sweet and tantalising.

Thoughts:
Similar to its Rare Malt cousins in the same era, this OB cask strength Caol Ila 25 is also packed with ultra-firepower. Raw, explosive and overwhelming at times which makes me think this is definitely not for the faint-hearted. However, inside its relentless, steely cannon shell, rests the beloved Caol Ila DNA which is elegantly sweet, dimensional and complex which sings gloriously as it attempts to navigate through the deafening waves.

☆ [Recommended]


[59.4% | Original Bottling | 1978 Distilled | 2004 Bottled | Limited Edition | Natural Cask Strength | *]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Caol Ila 1982 Aged 35 Years Diageo Special Release 2018

Style: Smoky, Spicy and Complex

Nose:
Fiery spice carrying iodine blotches, black pepper and maritime sprays. Red chilli and radish wrapping around an elegantly refined sweetness – tropical mangoes infused with homemade lemon cordial. Beneath it sits a layer of seaweed and kale, Himalayan rock salt sprinkles and even a pinch of yellow curry powder (!). Bonfire smoke roasting gently, while the sweetness slowly morphs into orange confectioneries and grape Fanta. Another red chilli flash, the tone gradually sinks lower and we have cappuccino and dark liquorice towards the end. A bit hot but very complex.

Palate:
An immense burst of flavours at the forefront – the tropical and citrus fruits, maritime notes, peat, oak and malt are all fired together in a single shotgun round, very powerful and explosive… Black peppercorns, a couple of mineral flicks, followed by another burst of orange citrus and succulent lime konjac. Ashes dancing in the sea breeze, chocolate oak with a light iodine brush. Liquorice roots tossing into the fire, red fruits beginning to emerge after a while, mostly in the form of blackcurrants, decorated with some frosty mint. Delicious. Mocha taking a hint of rum. Honeycomb and paraffin sealing off a final layer of maritime smoke. Absolutely brilliant.

Finish:
Going a bit soft now, lemonade, vanilla icing sugar and kombu candies lingering. Malt syrup trickling down very slowly with a sense of pureness.

Thoughts:
Amazing. The intensity and complexity of this dram are almost second to none. It feels this has taken in all the specialities of well-matured Caol Ila from that era – The elegant citrus/tropical fruitiness, gentle but charming peat smoke, dignified oak, complex layerings and sometimes a certain degree of ferociousness, everything rolled into one and generated an incredibly compact and complex expression. Extraordinary. Probably a tad too spicy when assessed individually but I think it still possesses all the qualities to be a modern-legend bottling.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[58.1% | Original Bottling | 1982 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Bottle Number: 1012 | 3276 Bottles | Natural Cask Strength | Vatted | **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1984 Aged 33 Years

Style: Sweet, Smoky and Complex

Nose:
Fizzling lemonade, slightly salty, stewed fruits and graphite. Lively and surprisingly “round”. Peppermint and rosemary flowers stabbing through layers of fruitiness. Green apples, mangoes and confectionaries forming more beautiful sweetness underneath. Kumquat, seaweed, mineral water and overripe white peaches sitting even deeper at the core. Wow, it feels the depth is simply endless and ever-changing, incredible aroma. A little bit of bacon crisps, sandalwood and assorted pepper at the back. Very complex.

Palate:
Similar to what the nose has suggested, except it is more compact and consolidated. Lemon citrus, vanilla icing, seaweed soda water and peated barley (of course it is) interweaving together elegantly. Peppermint hitting the high notes, baby kumquats, liquorice, prosciutto and violets placed on top of steaming barley. A thin slice of fig jam and white peach gently cooked and smoked in a barbeque stove. Chilli spike, tropical fruit punch, milk chocolate and coconut jelly at the back to finish.

Finish:
Lemonade with a twist of smoke. Bacon and iodine droplets. Maritime and mineral notes lingering on a barley bed.

Thoughts:
We all now know early 80s Caol Ila are pretty magical, but this one is probably on another level. Simply because of its endless complexity is really amazing, which is built upon the perfect congregation of every single element in the spirit. It feels technically the maturation, intensity, peat, expression, distillate, cask and balance have all hit their respective peaks and are orchestrated to put in a majestic performance. Probably you can dock off a couple of points on the finish, but it remains a 3 stars dram in my book.

☆☆☆ [Most Recommended]

[52.8% Independent Bottling 1984 Distilled 2018 Bottled Aged 33 Years Single Cask Batch 18/062 Refill Sherry Hogshead 216 Bottles Non Coloured Non Chill Filtered ***-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Gordon & Macphail Caol Ila 1984 Aged 32 Years Exclusively Bottled for La Maison du Whisky

Style: Sweet and Smoky

Nose:
Fragrant cherry pie dancing into the stage, maple syrup bacon and pecans crackling softly on the side. Swooping lower we have a nice layer of earthy peat, peanut butter coating on elegant white flower and peppermint. Vanilla malt cake, brown sugar and red dates forming the base notes. Very sweet. While chilli spice beaming positively. Damp moss with just a touch of honey, seaweed finish. Brilliant aroma.

Palate:
Apples in multiple forms at the front – Toffee apples, overripe Fuji reds as well as a hint of fresh Granny-smith greens inserted in between. Apple cobbler followed by blue berries slotting in underneath. All round and sweet. Vanilla milk in silkiest form, orange citrus and peppermint bringing in some sharpness. Grapefruits infused with smoke. Damp peat and smoked bacon lurking in the backdrop, chilli glowing towards the end. Absolute delicious.

Finish:
Sherry sweetness on a slow retreat, chocolate sauce, malt and peat smoke becoming more apparent over time. Sweet and smooth.

Thoughts:
To be honest, a sweet tooth like me can easily kill this bottle within two hours. Incredible sweetness running wild every sip, yet it is not cloying at all and there are plenty of nuances to discover and chew on. Perfect balance between the sherry, malt and smoke. It feels the spirit is chiseled into an incredibly drinkable form. If I can only drink one whisky for the rest of my life, this is going to be it. As much as I want to give this three stars, but the depth falls just a little bit short on the technical side to get full marks. That said, it is still a top, top drop.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[52.7% Independent Bottling Single Cask 1984 Distilled 2017 Bottled Cask Number 6103 Non Coloured Non Chill Filtered Refill Sherry Hogshead 165 Bottled **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cadenhead Single Cask Caol Ila 1983 Aged 33 Years

Style: Fruity, Slight Smoky and Complex

Nose:
Beautiful honey marches in together with fresh green lime slices, while peat smoke is carefully infused into the aroma. Oh my god, this is incredible. Fragrance and oiliness at perfect balance, very vibrant as well. Chalks, more lemon, probably in the form confectionaries, grapefruits, pineapple and even a tiny bit of jackfruit, quite tropical. Pine and grass undertone, subtle smoke lurking beneath the surface as well. Mussels and grilled asparagus hiding very deep. Spicy notes picking up towards the end, very nice.

Palate:
Lemon citrus and stewed tropical fruits leading at the front, lime cordial drizzling on sage and Brazilian steak. Peat smoke humming softly, yuzu combines with rosemary flowers and malt biscuits to form a beautiful secondary layer. Acrylic and chalky notes resonating at the background, taro, dying coal ambers and wood wool sitting at the back. Barley surfaces towards the end.

Finish:
Lime and grapefruit pie, subtle smoke subside even further. Just a touch of lemon vera to finish.

Thoughts:
A clear crowd favourite in my 80s Caol Ila tasting and rightly so. This Cadenhead is surprisingly vibrant, and its complexity stretches beyond one’s imagination. Not only flavour-wise, but also the combination of its parameters – the fruitiness, flavour palette, oiliness, vibrancy, layers and maturation is very complete and highly sophisticated. One of the most complex Caol Ilas I have tried to date. For me, it is only one magical touch away to reach three stars. Top dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[50.2% / Independent Bottling / 1983 Distilled / 2017 Bottled / 198 Bottles / Cask Strength / Single Cask / Non-Chill Filtered / Non-Coloured / **+]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Caol Ila Aged 12 Years (Bulloch Lade & Co. Ltd Bottling Imported by Zenith Italia and Bonfanti)

[43.0%・12 Years Old・Bottled Circa 1980s・Bulloch Lade & Co. Ltd Bottling Imported by Zenith Italia and Bonfanti・Limited Release]

Nose:

A faint delicate smoke resting on perfume-y red apples with just a touch of thinner in a good nature sort of manner. There is a stunning floral presence with custard and caramel gelling with brine and capers.

Palate & Finish:

Vibrantly burst of Japanese white peach juice followed by toffee sauce, wood smoke and soft tar, feels a touch chalky with a smoked umami note arriving later on.

Smoked wood, slightly charred sugar and a rustic saltiness from the sea.

Thoughts:

Vintage inspired white fruits turn oceanic, the striped down and bare wood smoke is like going to Firedoor for the first time experiencing food prepared instinctively over fire. There is a sense of purity in the subtleties.

[Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Samaroli Coilltean Caol Ila 1995

[45.0%・10 Years Old・Distilled in 1995 ・Bottled in 2005・ Samaroli Bottling・Cask No. 1118 & 3263・ Limited Release]

Nose:

The softest honey and caramel fudge, tender white fruits with a gentle touch of iodine dressed in Italian herbs and fennel seeds, coastal seaweed, crystallised sea salt and a barbecue saltiness now surfacing, making it a savoury affair.

Palate and Finish:

Golden syrup atop crisp pears and juicy aloe vera, with peat, ash and roasted hazelnuts bursting out from the sweetness, a spirit crispness driving a rather peppery note on the mid-palate.

Wee bit earthy with a woody and peppery aftertaste and traces of orchard fruits.

Thoughts:

On the back label it reads “this whisky has been selected with love”, and a honest representation indeed.

A pale coloured dram that packs a spectrum of flavours beyond its age, combining nuances I wouldn’t have expected, could it be from the vatting or could it be from years of mellowing and refining?

☆ ☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Moon Import Caol Ila The Sails in the Wind

[46.0%・Distilled in 1977・Bottled in 1993・ Moon Import Bottling・Cask No. 4659 & 4660 ・ Limited Release]

Nose:

Starts off with a herbal setting but with quite a sweet layer of cotton candy, well balanced with the sooty presence that opens up to notes of lemon, menthol and whisky crumble and later on fruits and soft nougat.

Palate & Finish:

A brilliant flow of honey, nougat and yellow fruits sailing through a mellow cloud of ashy smoke. The combination of malt, fruits and smoke is just sublime.

Lingering, creamy smoke silkily coasts through shades of red apples and oak.

Thoughts:

I never knew a Caol Ila from the 70s could be so astoundingly fruity.

A beautiful dram from nose to finish, so I suppose this would be the proper daily dram ey..

☆ ☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Thompson Bro’s Caol Ila 2008 Vintage Aged 10 Years

[51.0%・10 Years Old・Distilled in 2008・Thompson Bro’s Bottling・Limited Release of 338 Bottles]

Nose:

Wood fire smoked kippers, clean petrol and iodine.

Palate & Finish:

Flowing honey, with orchard fruits and an ashy, mouthwatering punch of smoke.

Sweet and swift with traces of peat smoke dispersing.

Thoughts:

An easy-going young Islay, good fun for a casual session.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

-Nicholas