Caol Ila 2003 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Review 2017-045 «Specifics» Single malt • Vintage 2003 • Bottled in 2015 for ‘t Konijntje (Belgium) • Matured for 11 years in a first-fill bourbon barrel (#302246) • 56.3% Alcohol • Non-chill filtered • Natural colour • Sourced from Caol Ila • Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail (GM) • Elgin • Scotland • Limited availability (240 bottles) • Not available anymore (price was ±€63) • Whiskybase #69022

STORY. The Scottish independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail regularly releases good expressions of Caol Ila, either matured in bourbon or sherry casks. These releases have an agreeable price tag (mostly €60-70) for the whisky lover without an enormous budget. Look in particular for the cask strength versions. We review today one of G&M’s Caol Ila’s that was matured in a single bourbon cask. This particular release was exclusively bottled for ‘t Konijntje (translated: The Little Rabbit), a whisky restaurant located in village of Kluisbergen in the Belgian province of Eastern Flanders. If you happened to be in the neighbourhood, they have more than 200 open bottles of whisky.


APPEARANCE. Classic and simple design, colour of the contents appears like golden straw and seems natural coloured.

NOSE. It has a sweet start that clearly shows the bourbon cask influence. Some sweet peat, but not that much, which goes more towards the smokey side. Develops into acidic yellow fruits, pungent, grassy, and then mellows into salty butter. (water) Now it is rounder with many layers of cream, butter, vanilla sugar, butterscotch cookies, and a slight fruitiness of dried apricots. The more cream, oils and butter.

TASTE. Much more peat compared to the nose and also much more salt. Cigarette smoke, butterscotch sweets, buttercream, and earthy notes of mud, hay, like entering the stables. (water) Dilution with water also increases the number of layers in the palate. We can find lots of silky butter, cream, and a spicy side with rye bread, nutmeg and pepper. Remains very coastal with some of the salty peat we also found in the nose. The briny peat hints towards Octomore or Lagavulin 12 CS (which are both good references, obviously) and ultimately lingers quite long with some sunflower oil and apples.

VERDICT. This Caol Ila has many layers, in particular when you add some water, and is nicely silky sweet. It is not my favourite kind of Caol Ila, though. A bit too sweet and probably a bit too much of the bourbon cask is shining through for my taste.

Recommended for peat heads that want to explore the sweeter side of Caol Ila.

Thanks to Mike for the sample!

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