Caol Ila 12 years

"Basic bottling from on of Islay's largest distillery that everyone should taste at least once"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

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Caol Ila, pronounced as Lul-EE-lah, has the largest output of the Islay distilleries, however, it is certainly not the most famous one. With its gentler peat it stands in the shadows of its bigger peated neighbours, although the last couple of years the distillery has become very popular among independent bottlers. Via this release of mostly young independent bottlings, it has grown into a favourite for both beginning whisky drinkers and those on a budget. Maybe that has pushed the distillery bottlings somewhat to the background, if also look at my own preferences. So today we’ll have a look at one of the standards regarding Caol Ila, the 12 year old.


Somewhat quiet nose at first before the peat arrives. The peat is vegetal, green-is, with moss, composting leaves and a hint of spinach. This is accompanied by lots of salt and the typical Caol Ila citrus. The nose becomes sweeter with lime skin, almond paste and minerals, in particular calcium. Nicely fresh with notes of mineral water, sea air and freshly pressed lemon juice and other soft lemon notes. On the other side, it is fairly herbal, although I cannot really pick out one specific herb.


Good strength from the start, in contrast to the nose, and very salty. Grass, ash, coals counteracted by lemon freshness. Smoked lemon juice, dried herbs and a slight metallic taste. I also find leather jacket (if you might ever licked it) and a hint of salmiak salt. The aftertaste is bright, reasonably long, lightly peated, and obviously contains lemon and lime.


A good all-round peated whisky that every whisky connoisseur should taste at least once in their life. Not overly complex, but it contains all the typical notes that I have learned to associate with Caol Ila’s, mostly independent, bottlings. The nose might be a bit shy in the beginning, but it develops well, while the palate reveals the distillery’s power. Good to back to the basics once in a while.

What others say

Whiskybase: 83.30 (13 votes) * Serge Valentin @Whiskyfun: 86/100 * @Whiskynotes: 83/100 * @TheDramble: 84/100 * @TheWhiskeyWash: 5/5 * @Distiller: 87/100
Read for yourself

Big thanks to for sharing the sample!


these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •

Cask influence
Sweet <-> Spicy
Nose 86%
Taste 87%
Balance 86.5%
Depth 85%
Finish 87%