Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve

"A lovely complex and interesting insight into what really drives the spirit of Caol Ila"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

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Although most of us know Caol Ila as a peated whisky, a large portion of the spirit made there is in fact unpeated. The distillery started experimenting with unpeated spirit in the 80s to to fulfill the demand for the owner’s blends. Since these experiments were considered successful, this so called “Highland” Caol Ila became part of the regular production process. It took 20 years, before Diageo dared to release an unpeated version of Caol Ila in 2006. Starting at 8 years, the following years the age increased to 10 years and beyond. In 2013, an eighth version without an age statement was released as part of Diageo’s Special Releases. It was named after distillery manager Billy Stitchell who was retiring that year after almost 40 years service, and presented at cask strength.

Nose

Lots of barley, salt and lemon in the beginning, then smoked rosemary and parsley, sea air and some bandages. This was not peated, right? A hint of chloride, earth, hessian, and definitely some peat or smoke. More mud, grease, and sweeter notes of almond oil, peanut oil, tomato juice and sweet herbs. The typical Caol Ila citrus is quite complex in this one with notes of grapefruit, lemon juice and in the development tropical fruits with in particular pineapple juice appear.  With some drops of water the herbs become stronger and a slightly metallic note appears.

Taste

Very salty and it feels quite smoky… Fierce and hot with barbecued peppers and lots of almond oil. There are mineral water, sand and mud and hay. Very natural, right? Lemon (finally), hints of celery and cauliflower, salmiac salt and more regular salt. A reasonable long finish with more almond oil, minerals and metals. It is slightly drying, and I also get notes of leaves, kippers and sea water.

Overall

A really nice dram. I know may people disqulify unpeated Caol ILa as “just like another Highland whisky”, but I do not agree. This is much more complex than what many Highland distilleries bring out. Although, I do find the 14 year old version a little bit more complex and balanced, especially on the palate. The tropical fruits during the development in the nose are a very nice touch. Strangely, I did find quite some smoky notes in this unpeated version.

What others say

Whiskybase: 86.22 (126 votes) * Serge Valentin @Whiskyfun: 83/100 * @AllThingsWhisky: 84/100 * Ruben @WhiskyNotes: 83/100 * @Distiller: 92/100
Read for yourself

Big thanks to for sharing the sample!

Scores

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

Cask influence
30%
Sweet <-> Spicy
60%
  • Salt
  • Lemon
  • Smoked herbs
Nose 87%
Taste 86.5%
Balance 86.5%
Depth 87.5%
Finish 87%
Score