Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength Review

“The Beauty and the Beast”

Whisky Review # 815

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength - Bottled 2006
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 58%
Maturation: Most likely Ex-Bourbon Casks.
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 130-140 (May 2019)
Buying Advice: 😔It's nice but rather Young. I'd go for the 18 Years instead!


Golden Straw (Artificially Coloured)


Young, Floral, Grassy, Mineral, Coastal and slightly Medicinal. Alternate Sweet and Sour notes. You have to nose your way around the strong Alcohol. Make sure to give this Caol Ila enough time in the glass before Nosing.  I wouldn't be surprised if some Virgin Wood was used in the Maturation process. I like the Nose despite its obvious Youth. (7-10 Years perhaps).

Main Aromas:

Toasted Malt, Coastal Peat, Bonfire Smoke, Brine, Iodine, Tar, Grass, Straw, Pear, Apple, Smoked Fish/Ham, Pepper, Rubber, Tobacco Leaves and Leather.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Shell Fish, Wet Rocks, Band-Aid, Lemon, Orange, Dried Herbs, Menthol, Green Coffee Beans, Floral Soap, Nutmeg and Licorice.


A nice combination of Bitter, Sweet and Sour notes. The Alcohol is noticeable of course. The only thing that prevents this Caol Ila from being a great Whisky is its obvious Youth. I would love to try this as a 15 Years old.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Malt, Buttered Toast, Coastal Peat, Bonfire Smoke, Brine, Tar, Rubber, Soot, Ashes, Grass/Straw, Apple, Pear, Lemon, Grapefruit, Pepper, Licorice and Cloves.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Orange, Mandarin, Dirty Earth, Wet Rocks, Musty Oak, Dried Herbs, Floral Soap, Leather, Tobacco Cinnamon and Nutmeg.


Medium Long/Long. A combination of Sweet, Sour and Bitter notes. Quite Spicy and Medium-Dry. I find Toasted Malt, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Coastal Peat, Bonfire Smoke, Dirty Earth, Iodine, Brine, Ashes, Sea Water, Fish/Shell Fish, Licorice, Floral Soap, Menthol, Aniseed, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cloves, Leather, Old Cigar Box, Grapefruit and Lemon.

Drinking Advice:

I added a bit of Water and the Alcohol retreats making the Whisky a little bit more approachable. The Nose becomes almost Creamy and Peat, Smoke and Coastal Aromas become more mellow. With Water you tame the Beast but...I kinda liked the Beast! On the Palate, a little Water certainly creates Balance but it's kinda like taking the sting out of a Bee. The Finish becomes rather Short. As taste is such an individual matter I would suggest to try it both Neat and with a little Water. I prefer it neat as I like the strong and wild character but it's quite enjoyable with a little Water as well.

Rating: 86.5

Nose: 22 - Taste: 22 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Good


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 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 15 years Diageo has made great efforts to position the Distillery as a Single Malt as well. Caol Ila is beautifully located alongside the strait between Islay and Jura. The Core range includes the 12, 18 and 25 Years, the Distiller's Edition as well as the NAS Moch. We enjoyed both our visits to the distillery in 2014 and 2017 respectively despite the fact that you're not allowed to take pictures.

The Cask Strength expression was launched for the first time in 2002 and has become a familiar feature since then. I'm reviewing the 2006 Edition. The Cask Strength is one of those If...expressions. It's a nice Single Malt but it could have been a great one if matured longer, let's say for around 15 Years. That's why I recommend the standard 18 Years over this Natural Cask Strength although the ABV of 43% is too low for the former. The 18 Years is the Beauty, the Natural Cask Strength is the Beast!


Jan van den Ende                                                                        May 6, 2019

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