Well, all of this Caol Ila discussion meant that I had to participate!
As a side note, i actually quite like the standard CI DE bottling - it's a little sweet, but it's what I would define as a super drinkable whisky. Certainly not the most complex out there, nor challenging, but easy going
OK - CI's tasted tonight (I've enjoyed these both before, but never formalized tasting notes) - See picture for bottle details:
First off, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 29 yo Sherry Single Cask Caol Ila (@47.4%)
Nose: moderate intensity with feint smoke but not really any peat. Marzipan and almonds, salty black liquorice, clover honey develops later on.
Palate: somwhat oily. Oak more pronounced with strong vanilla; smoke and peat obvious but very mild (Bowmore type levels) most likely due to aging. Sherry component is only mildly apparent - not sure what type of sherry it's matured in: initial sweetness that fades quickly to brine. Amontillado perhaps? I don't think it's as dry as Fino. Huge tobacco / cigar notes - along with a bit of wax - developing later and very pleasant.
Finish: Alcohol integration is good, but not amazing, giving its relatively moderate strength and especially its age. Medium to long finish with very little if any sweetness: tobacco notes very prominent with moderate peat and smoke apparent still with perhaps some citrus.
I like it - i would rate if (for what that's worth) around 88 points if I was into that kind of thing (and possibly higher if it was not my first whisky of the evening). Perhaps a little muted for Caol ila - it's definitely pretty moderate on the flavours compared to some expressions: definitely more of a gentle giant kind of whisky that will take some time to discover.
Interestingly enough, Whiskyfun reviewed this bottle here: http://www.whiskyfun.com/archiveaugust11-2.html#290811
Next up - Gordon MacPhail CASK Series 11 yo Sherry Caol Ila (@57.6%)
Nose: Fairly intense with an overriding sensation of sweetness and medicinal iodine. Oak as well - can't figure out exactly what the sweetness is (first though was beeswax, but it's not that - got the wife involved and she couldn't peg it either). I hate to say Christmas cake because it's used so much, but it's like that mixed with butter tart. Of course it has the required smoke and peat components. Fantastic!
Palate: WOW!!! Awesomely intense notes of peat and sherry - a bit of smoke as well. Very different than the nose. Less oily than the 29yo, but not thin: perhaps lighter in body. While the nose has many layers to discover the palate is straightforward peat, sherry (highly obvious here & standing out on its own, but without tannins) and some smoke. Orange citrus notes come through at the end. Surprisingly, for almost 10% higher ABV, I would say that the alcohol integration is at least as good, if not better than the 29yo.
Finish - more crisp and fleeting than the 29yo as the main palate components fade off quickly (i.e. medicinal, peat, smoke and sherry sweetness), but - similar to the 29yo - lingering tastes and smells of tobacco last for a long time.
Overall, this younger Caol Ila is the more enjoyable of the two and i think better drinking whisky. It would give any serious Lagavulin, Ardbeg or especially a Laphroaig (with this fairly young CI's medicinal qualities) a run for its money. I would give it 90 pts FWIW.
Hope you enjoyed the write ups!
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