With an output of up to 7 million litres per year, Caol Ila is by far the most productive distillery on Islay. Yet, it sometimes seems to me as if these seasoned whisky makers from the isle’s Northeast coast get less recognition than their prominent neighbors. I can only guess, but maybe that is because Caol Ila was designed as a high-capacity distillery right from the start, giving most of its whisky to blenders and keeping only some for its own single malt expressions – an approach that does not leave much room for romance, myth and fable. However, those who have already had the pleasure of enjoying one or many Caol Ilas will agree that the distillery does not need much storytelling. Their whiskies speak for themselves. Positioned somewhere between Ardbeg’s vehemence and Bunnahabhain’s gentleness, I find Caol Ila to be the perfect Islay all-rounder. The 12yo I poured myself for this review is their core range’s entry-level whisky. It gives you a good impression of the distillery’s in-balance style, bringing pleasant notes of peat smoke, sea air, leavened dough and citrus fruits in an intriguing equilibrium. If you keep your eyes open, you will find a bottle for under 40 bucks here in Germany (prices may differ in other countries). At that rate, you should not think twice about making a purchase.
Nose: Typical of Islay, the Caol Ila 12 puffs a good amount of peat, primarily in the form of cooled-down tar and dangling cigar smoke. Additonally, there is also a shy lemon note.
Palate: The distillery prides itself in making malts that are especially rounded and well-balanced. And rightfully so. Their 12 years old is not only nicely peated (at around 30ppm), but also delicate, fresh and even a bit fruity. The dominating smokiness is complemented by a covibrating sweetness.
Finish: Well-formed and worthy of such a good whisky. Towards the end, the Caol Ila 12 also develops buttery, grainy and grapefruit-y flavors.
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Region: Scotland (Islay)
Age: 12 Years
Alc. volume: 43%
Bottle size: 0.7 litres
Price range: ~38.00 Euro
More info: http://www.malts.com (Website)