Caol Ila 12 Years Review

“Diet Islay”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years 
Alcohol: 43%

A Hidden Treasure close to Port Askaig

Colour: Pale Straw/Chardonnay Wine

Nose: BBQ time on Islay with a nice platter of Smoked Fish, Shell Fish, Ham and Bacon. Sea Salt, Lemon, Mint, Herbs and Seaweed are amply present for seasoning and decoration. It's all quite Light though when compared to Ardbeg or Laphroaig. But there is also a Soapy, Floral and Vegetal feel to this Caol Ila. I find Wet Earth, Grass and Straw. In addition there are (subtle) notes of Sweet Barley, Band Aid, Iodine, Rubber, Leather, Tobacco, Toffee, Pineapple and Orange. It's not at all bad but a bit understated. The Smoke elements remind me of JW Black.

The rather small VC

Taste: Slightly Thin Delivery although the Alcohol stings a bit. It's mostly Sweet, Musty at times and Herbal toward the end. I identify Sweet Barley, Sweet Peat, light Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Rubber, Toffee, Nuts, Flagrant Soap, Lemon, Charred Oak, Pepper, Salt and Dried Herbs.

The Wooden Washbacks

Finish: Thin but Quite Long, Dry, slightly Sour and surprisingly Ashy with Earthy Peat, BBQ Smoke, Tar, Iodine, Fish and Shell Fish, Sea Water, Flagrant Soap, Pepper, Nutmeg, Licorice, Aniseed, Lemon, light Vanilla, Sugar Candy and old Cigar Boxes.

Who is buying here??

I added a bit of Water and that enhances the Soapy feeling on the Nose. Also a bit of Fruit like in New Make Spirit. The Palate and Finish however become too Sugary Sweet. Better sip the Caol Ila 12 Years without adding Water.

Rating: 83.5

Nose: 21 - Taste: 21 – Finish: 20.5 – Overall: 21

A Glimpse of the Stainless Steel Mash Tun

General Remarks: The Caol Ila Distillery was founded in 1846 and is located close to Port Askaig on Islay. It was bought by DCL in 1927 and through some mergers is now part of Diageo. The distillery was completely rebuilt in 1974 and only one old Warehouse reminds us of former days. Traditionally, Caol Ila is an important component of Blends like Johnnie Walker, Bell's and White Horse. But during the last 10 years Diageo has made great efforts to position the Distillery as a Single Malt as well. Caol Ila is now part of the group's Classic Malts line up. The core range includes the 12 Years that I am reviewing today, the 18 Years, the 25 Years and the Cask Strength. Caol Ila produces both peated and un-peated Spirit. The 12 Years was launched in June 2002 and costs around 60 US Dollars.

Shadow Stills!

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Caol Ila 12 years is an excellent way to sniff and taste your way into Islay Single Malt Whisky. All the ingredients of an Islay Malt are there but they are presented in a Light and almost Mellow Way. It's almost like you're having a Diet Islay. Therefore, true Peat Heads will probably look elsewhere to satisfy their daily portion of Wet Clay and Ashes. At 60 US Dollars, the Price Vs Quality ratio is okay.

All About the Cask!

Some Data: The name Caol Ila means Sound of Islay, It's located 1 mile off the A 846 from Port Askaig to Bowmore, quite close to the Ferry. The Distillery possesses 1 new Stainless Steel Full Lauter Mash Tun, 10 Wash Backs and 3 pair of  Stills. In 2014 their total production will amount to around 6,5 million litres. As mentioned above, the Distillery was rebuilt in 1974. I have to admit that I'm not too fond of the industrial look of the complex. On the other hand, the location is nearly perfect. From the Still House you have a wonderful view on the Sound and the Isle of Jura. What a pity really you're not allowed to take pictures of the production facilities inside!

Nice Warehouse!

The water for the distillery is sourced from nearby Loch Nam Ban. From April to November, the Distillery opens from Monday to Friday from 9.15 to 17.00 hours. From April to May it also opens on Saturday from 13.30 until 16.30 and from June to October from 10.00 to 16.30 hours. From December to March Caol Ila opens from Monday to Friday from 13.30 to 16.30 hours. The Standard Tour costs 6 Pounds but you get a nice Tasting Glass after the Tour. Premium Tours can be arranged by appointment and cost around 10 Pounds.

Serious Tasting Session!

We visited CaoI Ila on a rainy Sunday May 28, 2014. We did the Standard Tour and our group only consisted of 6 people. Nevertheless, or because of that, the Tour was great and our hostess very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. As I wrote earlier, it's a pity it is not allowed to take pictures. The Stills and the view from the Still House are spectacular! It's also a pity that the small VC does not sell any miniatures. After the Tour we tasted the Moch and the 2013 Islay Festival Triple Cask. All in all, and despite the limitations, you should certainly visit Caol Ila when you're on Islay. If only for the magnificent view from the Still House!

Jan van den Ende                                                        November 22, 2014

At Caol Ila Drams Come True!

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