This is a 29 year Caol Ila matured in a refill sherry hogshead and bottled at 55.1% ABV.
Nose: Blackberry coulis, honey, faint smoke, subtle peat, sour oak, and some licorice.
Palate: Quite oaky with blueberry/blackberry notes, mild peat, grassy, nutty, some brown rice, and plum wine.
Finish: Oak dominant with leather and black cherry.
Rating: 89/100 – Quite good – the sherry influence isn’t overwhelming and the peat has mellowed to a good, complimentary level.
Value for the money: Looks like this might run $250-300 which is in line with most other Caol Ilas of this age, and it would be toward the top of my list if you’re looking for a 25-30 year Caol Ila around $300.
This is a 25 year Caol Ila matured in re-coopered hogsheads and bottled at 46% ABV.
Nose: Seaweed, subdued peat, subtle sweet barbecue sauce, lime zest, brackish water, and a bit of buttery scallops.
Palate: Peat still subdued with dried/decaying leaves, earthy oak, mussels, apple peels, and a hint of bitter chocolate.
Finish: Lime notes stick around with mushrooms and woody malt.
Rating: 89/100 – Not an in your face peated dram, but lots of great subtle notes going on forming a great balance.
Value for the money: I believe I paid around $225 shipped from an EU site a couple years back for this one, and I think that’s a pretty fair price for what you’re getting.
This is Caol Ila’s entry level malt in their core range of expressions. It’s bottled at 43% ABV.
Nose: Strong peat and motor oil with some musty vanilla, pineapple juice, pine tar, and lemon juice.
Palate: Peat with lemon curd notes – earthy with some pineapple, dry smoke, tar, and minerals.
Finish: Anise, dry oak, peppery, and peat with lemon juice.
Rating: 84/100 – Fairly standard Caol Ila profile for me – I enjoyed the pineapple/lemon notes as they were fairly prominent.
Value for the money: These retail around $60, and I think that’s a pretty fair price for what you’re getting.
This is a 31 year Caol Ila 31 that was distilled in 1984 and bottled from two bourbon hogsheads at 52.1% ABV in 2016.
Nose: Musty cigarette smoke (not quite bowling alley level, but close), ashy, burnt brush, a bit of blueberry if you dig beneath the smoke. Some old rubber and vanilla emerge after a couple minutes.
Palate: Strong ash, dry oak, peat remarkably strong here given its age, vegetal notes with some more old rubber.
Finish: Very woody here – tastes like you filtered it through some wood chips, some tobacco and vanilla remain.
Rating: 86/100 – Surprisingly strong peat/smoke for 31 years – would be nice if that blueberry from the nose showed up on the palate.
Value for the money: Looks like these retailed around $200ish at release (and can still be found around that at auction it seems). That’s a pretty good price – especially given its age.
This is a 9 year Caol Ila from G&M that was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2014 at 59% ABV.
Nose: Very malty with clay, heavy licorice notes, bananas, playdough, and subtle berries.
Palate: Licorice, putty, mild peat, vegetal notes, and strawberry candies – a bit all over the place, but in an interesting fashion.
Finish: Mild finish that fades fast – mostly malt and peat.
Rating: 85/100 – A fun, young Caol Ila that somehow masks a lot of the peat to let some other notes come through.
Value for the money: I believe this retails around $100, and I’d say that’s a fair price.
This is the 2013 Feis Ile release from Caol Ila. This was a triple matured expression which according to Billy Stitchel means: “Spirit distilled in 1998 has been triple-cask matured. For 12 years it rested in a combination of Refill Butts, Hogsheads and Barrels. The vatted whisky was then allowed to mature for several months in active hogshead casks to impart a spicy/oaky note to the existing delicate Caol Ila smoke. Finally it was treated to a final gentle maturation in European oak.” It’s bottled at 56 .5% ABV.
Nose: Banana and mango with fruit punch, butyric acid, cloves, and sherry seasoned oak. Interesting nose that’s a bit all over the place, but definitely the fruitiest Caol Ila I’ve encountered.
Palate: Fruit is a tad more muted here but still guava and banana are evident with peppery oak, chocolatey malt, subtle peat and mint.
Finish: Sweet sherry as some of the peat fades leaving only mild smoke.
Rating: 89/100 – A very good Caol Ila with a unique nose.
Value for the money: These are going for about €160 or so at auction which isn’t too bad, but I’d probably only pay up to $120 or so for a bottle if it were available at retail.
This is the Feis Ile expression released by Caol Ila in 2009. It was matured in a sherry cask and is around 13 years old. It’s bottled at 58% ABV.
Nose: Brine and dry smoke lead off with burnt rubber, leather arm chari, toffee, and subtle sherry tucked beneath folds of peat.
Palate: Very smoke heavy with only a bit of the sherry coming through for me. Dried fish, red grapes, and bitter cocoa.
Finish: Mossy oak and dry smoke with burnt steak.
Rating: 91/100 – Very enjoyable, but I wish the sherry stood out just a bit more.
Value for the money: These have been going around €190 or so at auction which is a bit high in my book. If this were available in stores, I’d pay up to about $150.
This is a 30 year expression from Caol Ila that was distilled in 1983 and released as part of Diageo’s 2014 special releases. It’s bottled at 55.1% ABV.
Nose: Perfect blend of dry, old oak and peat that has mellowed nicely with age. Vanilla bean paste, seaweed, cocoa powder, and a fair amount of brine round out this well balanced nose.
Palate: Strong peat up front with a quick kick of red pepper flakes and oak – prominent seaweed notes with acrid smoke and new leather.
Finish: Dry peat and peppery oak linger on for a very long time.
Rating: 90/100 – A very good old Caol Ila with everything balanced well.
Value for the money: These can be bought on TWE currently for $471 which I would pass on. I’ve been debating getting a bottle of this, but I don’t find it that much better than other 25-30 IB Caol Ilas that can be found for close to half the price of this OB. I’d be happy to pay up to $250 for a bottle if it were available near me.
This is a 19 year Caol Ila from Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered collection which was matured in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 46% ABV.
Nose: Ashy peat mixed with iodine, leather, smoky beef jerky, pine sap, and dried tobacco.
Palate: Pungent peat with immense ashy notes behind it – sour oak, very thick smoke still. I didn’t expect the peat to be quite this strong at 19 years.
Finish: Ash still remains in forefront with the peat simmering down a bit.
Value for the money: Guessing this retailed between $70-$100, and I would probably pass at that price unless a strong ashy peat is your preferred Islay, in which case this will be right up your alley.
This is a 25 year Caol Ila that was bottled by the Bladnoch Forum at 52.7% ABV.
Nose: Peat fairly subdued tucked behind folds of smoldering oak, fresh thyme, dried meats, and some iodine.
Palate: Peat amps up a little bit with a moldy/weathered oak profile behind it alongside heavy vegetal notes.
Finish: Turns a bit dry with the peat lingering softly with a tinge of oak and tobacco smoke – muted overall.
Rating: 87/100 – A very nice Caol Ila that feels a bit subdued overall.
Value for the money: I bought into a bottle split at a roughly $400 valuation – I would not pay that price for a bottle. If this were available at retail, I’d probably spend up to $150 or so.