Older Caol Ila can be gems that are still reasonably priced – once they hit 30 years they often display a very complex profile. Today I am comparing three older versions on the way to full maturity.
Caol Ila 30 y.o. Archives 1982 – 2012, Bourbon Hogshead 758, 207 btl., 51,2%
Comment: Unusually fruity at first whiff but still with the typical peaty DNA of Caol Ila or even the one of older medicinical Islay drams like Ardbeg (indeed) but only for seconds. This amazing stuff turns towards mineral austerity after a while and then displays fruit again – a tightrope dancer with impeccable balance between these worlds. I am getting lemon zest, salt, olive oil, tarry tires, chalky and discrete oak, minty freshness, tropical fruits (peaches, pineapple, banana), herbs for soups and only a little juniper. This is mature Islay whisky for the connoisseur of elegant drams. No water needed.
Caol Ila 28 y.o. The Whisky Agency ‘Sea Life’ 1984 – 2012, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 254 btl., 53,5%
Comment: Same basic maritime style minus the fruitiness of above’s bottling, yet wonderfully austere and mineral again with a touch of lemon zest. This is spicier and more Talisker-esque, dare I say. The peat layer is thin and and very elegant but develops some grip on the palate. Chalky oak again, tar, burning embers and juniper combine in great balance with wonderful of sea salt on the palate. Great choice.
Caol Ila 21 y.o. TheWhiskyCask 1990 – 2012, Bourbon Cask, 55%
Comment: This one is different, a farmyardy and herbal peater with quite some spice (white pepper, coriander, a little cinnamon), altogether the most typical of the three (white pepper,olive oil, juniper, lemon chicken, suede leather) – and it is notably younger and a little less balanced, but has more power and oak. The dry attack with some sulphury moments is best tamed with some drops of water.