Caol Ila 35 Years (Diageo Special Release 2018)

”That’s Life” 

Whisky Review # 959

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila 1982-2018 (Distilled: 1982 - Bottled: 16-08-2018)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Bottles: 3276 - Diageo Special Release 2018
Age: 35 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 58.1% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Refill American Hogsheads and European Sherry Butts
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 1000-1200 (August 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐 This can't be cheap of course
Buying Advice: 😋 Delicious!


Golden (Natural Color)


Lovely! Mature Islay Malt is one of my favorite Whiskies. The Nose is a little on the shy side so you need to take your time with this Caol Ila. It's worth every minute though. The first thing I notice is that Peat and Smoke are quite fresh and crispy for a 35-year old Single Malt. The refill casks provide the correct amount of Wood. The Alcohol is noticeable but does not interfere with the Nosing procedures. The Nose is a balanced mix of Sweet, Sour, Coastal, Mineral and Dusty "Old" notes. The Sherry cask influence is limited.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Slightly Burnt Toast with Salted Normandy Butter, Caramel, Grass & Straw, Shell Fish & Bacon on the BBQ sprinkled with Lemon & Herbs, Bonfire made with Driftwood, Tarred Ropes, Soot, Ashes, Brine, Wet Rocks and Sand, Wet Earth, Toasted Nuts, Dark Berries, Grapefruit, Melon, Bounty Bars, Green Apples, Charred Oak, Cuban Cigars, Olive Oil, Cinnamon, Ginger, Garam Marsala, Aniseed and Iron.
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Toffee, Burnt Heather, Honey, Wax, Chalk, Iodine, Gooseberry, Orange, Pine Needles, Nectarine, slightly Sour Plums, Dunnage Warehouse, Dusty Shelves with Old Books, Polished Leather, Banana Ice Cream, Licorice and Menthol.   


Quite strong delivery. The Alcohol is there and Wood and Spices come to play their part. The mature yet crispy Peat and Smoke remain delicious. The Palate presents a rather Oily mix of Sweet, Bitter, Sour, Coastal, Fruity, Spicy and Mineral notes. This is a perfect Winter Whisky to enjoy while enjoying the open fire or reading a book.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Grass & Straw, Green Apple, Banana, Dark Berries, Dried Fruit like Plums/Dates, Bounty Bars, Campfire Smoke, Wet Peat, Ashes, Soot, Tar, Dark Chocolate, Toasted Nuts, Shellfish and Bacon on the BBQ sprinkled with Lemon and Herbs, Wet Rocks & Sand, Pepper and Ginger. 

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Honey, Vanilla, Toffee, Wax, Resin, Nectarine, Orange, Grapefruit, Hospital, Farm Yard, Cigars, Tobacco, Cinnamon, Licorice, Aniseed, Menthol, Polished Leather and strong Espresso.


Long. Sweet, Sour, Coastal and Spicy with a little Bitterness towards the Dry end. The Alcohol is more noticeable now and so are Wood and Spices. I find Toasted and Malted Barley, slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Honey, Burnt Heather, Wax, Grass and Straw, Bonfire Smoke, Wet Peat, Brine, Ashes, Soot, Dark Berries, Grapefruit, Melon, Green Apples, Bounty Bars, Toasted Almonds, Shellfish & Bacon on the BBQ sprinkled with Lemon & Herbs, Dusty Old Casks, Ripe Bananas, Polished Leather, Tobacco, Hospital, Compost, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Licorice, Menthol, Ginger, Aniseed and strong Espresso. Some Peach/Nectarine after a while. The Ashes stay in your mouth for quite some time.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and that enhances Malt, Smoke and Peat on the Nose. The Palate becomes even more delicious and the Alcohol and Spices are toned down in the Finish. I would advise you to add a little Water.

Rating: 90.5 - Stars on a 1-10 scale: 8.5 (********1/2)

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 23.5 - Finish: 22 - Overall: 22.5

*** Important Note with respect to Rating.

A few of my loyal readers have pointed out that every once in a while my final Rating note does not seem to be totally in line with the written text. I recognize that. When I started this Whisky Blog back in 2011, I was not at all experienced in tasting and scoring Single Malts & Blends. Looking back I realize that during the early years I probably scored the good Whiskies too low and the not so good Whiskies too high. Ever since the beginning I try to remain consequent in my rating, always comparing the outcome to the rating of comparable whiskies in terms of quality and taste and adjusting the final rating if necessary. This might lead to the discrepancy I mentioned before. It would have been much easier if I would have chosen a simple 1-10 rating since the beginning but after having reviewed 950 whiskies it would not be wise to change the system now. I will however from now on add stars on the 1-10 scale so you will have a better idea of what I thought of the whisky reviewed. Please feel free to comment!

Drinking Experience Neat
: Excellent


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 finally became 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 really beautifully located alongside the strait between the islands of Islay and Jura. The Core range includes the 12, 18 and 25 Years, the Distiller's Edition as well as the NAS Moch. We thoroughly enjoyed both our visits to the distillery in 2014 and 2017 respectively despite the fact that you're not allowed to take pictures. Caol Ila is certainly one of my favorite distilleries and Single Malts.

I haven't encountered the perfect Whisky as yet but this 35-year old Caol Ila is pretty damn good. It has a few little flaws like the shy Nose and the perhaps a little too high ABV and it 's not the best matured Caol Ila I've had so far (See here) but it's delicious enough to enter into my all-time Top 10 so far. If you have the bucks, you can't go wrong with this Islay Malt. 

Cheers! 🥃

Jan van den Ende                                                                        August 18, 2022


Anonymous said...

Wow. What a rare treat and obviously a hit...

Best regards

Jan van den Ende said...

Hi Bjorn, good to hear from you! I love these mature Islay whiskies and Caol Ila is certainly one of my favorites. Have a great weekend! Cheers, Jan.🥃