Caol Ila 1991 CC (blind)

"I was sure that this strongly peated whisky came from Islay, however it shows another side of Caol Ila besides the modestly peated original bottlings"

(Picture from Whiskybase)

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Every peat lover has probably tasted some Caol Ila, or at least should. Although the basis for the Caol Ila spirit is malted barley with similar phenol levels as Lagavulin, most will consider this distillery as one of the less peated from Islay. But don’t be mistaken, Caol Ila can also be ferociously peated. I have even tasted an independent Caol Ila (from Adelphi, click here for the review) that was approaching the Lagavulin 12 year-old in upfront blade-y peat smoke. Today, we have another independent release that has been matured for considerably amount of 25 years. Maybe we could compare it with 25 year-old distillery bottling, qhich I found rather excellent, but I honestly do not think we should do that. When I tasted a sample of this bottle during a competition, it was therefore probably not that surprising that I went for another Islay distillery (Octomore).

Nose

Oh yes, we have entered peatland! At first I get overflown with a mix of ink, carbon paper, and ashes. The citrus fruits enter the mix, along with hints farmy scents. I was trying to pin down which distillery’s style this could be, but I still had various candidates. The fruity freshness behind the peat is particularly to my liking. Freshly squeezed lemon juice, fruity ashes (?), and peated orange juice. Yes, it is getting weird now, but good weird. It is getting even better after a few minutes. And I probably imagine it, but I even get some faint wine-y notes. Smoked strawberries or raisins? This almost mellow nose and explosive palate, Octomore or Caol Ila? Let’s see what happens on the palate.

Taste

It is very ashy and peaty on one side, but very gentle with fresh fruits on the other. Lovely lemons, oranges, peaches, lime. This is really good. The balance is perfect, but you have the idea that it is a shaky balance. Flashes of heavy ashes, farm-like peat shoot around your tongue, while those are directly counter balanced the freshest citrus fruits and breads. The complexity is not endless, but what it has got, is pretty perfect. The finish is long, ashy and citrussy. Lovely interplay between the cask and the spirit and the 46% feels appropiate.

Overall

This was definitely very enjoyable to taste! A proper Islay whisky which much sides to like for fans of the combination of peat and citrus fruits, which include me. I was doubting a lot between Caol Ila and Octormore, and finally chose for the latter. The Octomore 7.2, to be specific. But I could have known, this was the cullprit. And yes, it turned out to be Caol Ila.

To come back to my suggestion to compare it with the 25-year-old OB, again, I know we shouldn’t, but the difference is so striking. The OB with its whispering peat and many subbtle complexities, and the IB’s coastal peat that aggresively attacks your tongue and does not want to leave and pushes the complexity more to the background. So intreguing that casks can be so different. I presonally prefer the OB (which is also slightly cheaper), but for those who like Octomore or Lagavulin 12 can blindly go for this.

What others thought

Competition day #6

Caol Ila 1991 Cooper Choice

Whiskybase: 87.69 (15 votes) Contestants: 8.1/10

This sample was part of the

Scores

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

Cask influence
40%
Peat/smoke
85%
Nose 86.5%
Taste 86.5%
Balance 85.5%
Depth 86%
Finish 87%
Score