As a marketer by profession, I am quite susceptible to good storytelling and well-conceived ad campaigns. Still, I am also always happy when a whisky manages to catch my attention without supplementary hoo-ha. This 14-year-old Caol Ila from Gordon & MacPhail’s renowned Connoiseurs’ Choice series is one such dram. All it took to win me over was the name of the distillery and the reputation of the bottler. And maybe also the phrase “old-style single malt whisky” in the product description. Based on these simple but significant bits of information, I ordered my bottle. And I got exactly what I was looking for… and more! This peat-laden heavyweight embodies everything I love about Islay! It is peaty, it is maritime, it is complex, it is headstrong and it is both raw and refined. In short, it presents the Queen of the Hebrides from her best side and shows once again that Caol Ila – while not one of Islay’s most picturesque distilleries – is always a guarantor for an outstanding sip!
Eye: Light yellow.
Nose: Islay galore! Charred firewood, ashy cigarette smoke and vegetable peat are the first odors to fill our nostrills. But there is more! Sugary apple juice and fluffy vanilla pudding add sweetness. Dried mint leaves and strong ice candy provide freshness. Moist harbor walls and stranded driftwood point out the whisky’s maritime heritage. There’s also an exotic fruit note further back. Now that I smelled the dram, I am really excited to take a sip!
Palate: The spirit feels very thick and oily in the mouth; it literally wears down the tongue with its immense heaviness. The smoke turns darker now, taking the form of black, cooled-off tar. But like dandelions breaking though the asphalt, all kinds of other flavors pierce through: sweetness from burnt raisins, bitterness from sliced grapefruits, spiciness from cut ginger, brininess from salted licorice. The strength is good, the mouthfeel is thick and the whole thing’s a real cracker… if you like the Islay-style!
Finish: Obviously, a dram of such stature does not simply fade out. It exits in a blaze! While the tarry, ashy smoke remains present in the finish, it is not as powerful in the throat as it was on the tongue. Besides it, we are also left with woody, salty, floral and fiery notes as well as the kickin’ oomph of no less than 55.6 per cent!
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Region: Scotland (Islay)
Age: 14 Years (2003/2018)
Alc. volume: 55.6%
Bottle size: 0.7 litres
# of Bottles: 264
Price range: ~100.00 Euro
More info: https://www.gordonandmacphail.com/ (Website)