"This not an average Caol Ila, I must admit, but I really like these kind of whiskies, They are probably not the most complex ones out there, but they feel honest, meaning close to the spirit, not hidden behind walls of wood"
(Photo from Whiskybase)
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Which time, you ask? The time that my taste buds have to be in optimal form, since the most fun annual blind tasting competition in the Netherlands (and Flandres) is upon us. Today we had to fill in the first of 16 samples of the “ProefOlympics” (translated as the Taste-Olympics) that we have to guess during the coming two weeks. For months I have been training my olfactory system, which was not the worst way to spend evenings, I must admit. Well, in fact it doesn’t matter how much training you do, you are never prepared for the surprises that a blind tasting competitions throws at you. But it is so much fun to challenge yourself, bring down your prejudices and put your feet beneath your slightly arrogant whisky-knowledgeable head back on the ground.
The initial nose is soft, but also intense, which I find a beautiful contradiction. It is pleasantly complex with a focussed, clear peatiness, transparent almost to a variety of suggestions that run beneath. I think of acrid bonfire smoke, rainwater that seeped through layers of peat and burning tobacco. A slightly sweet peat filled with minerals oils, probably wood oils, cow stables and a hint of lime juice. With more attention, other scents, or hints of scents, appear, including oranges, juicy pears, sweet apples, fresh rainwater, roasted herbs, sea water foam heads, leather jackets and greased ropes. So clean, so focussed, and already reasonably complex. In fact, I love this. A tea spoon of water softens the nose and brings out more vanilla, bonfire ashes, a hint of antiseptics, and salted butter.
Lovely balance with an obvious presence of vanilla, not disturbing though, the expected peat, accompanied by pebbles and wet sand. It is slightly drying, which in this case adds to the pleasant experience. There is a pinch of salt, some hints of olive oil, crushed walnuts and almonds, even a hint of pesto, which I cannot remember to have encountered before in a whisky, and pine tree seeds. Inhaled coal smoke, acrid ashes, a bit of charcoal and a long buttery aftertaste. Hints of new ropes, fresh leather, dried peat, more salt, more intensity. Water does not really slow it down, rather it swims very well with one or two tea spoons. Really long aftertaste. Tobacco, beach sand, candle wax, fresh shrimps, smoked mackerel, more fish food, fresh vanilla, and salted butter. Did I already say that this pushes many of my buttons?
This not an average Caol Ila, I must admit, but I really like these kind of whiskies. They are probably not the most complex ones out there, but they feel honest. Close to the spirit, not hidden behind walls of wood. Very well selected by van Van Wees and associates. In fact, now you say it, this Caol Ila indeed leans towards another cask strength selection of them from Ledaig. Anyway, a worthy beginning of the blind tasting competition (my guess was indeed Caol Ila, but slightly older).
Big thanks to for sharing the blind sample!
• these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •