After an organic experiment from Bruichladdich and the Bunnahabhain Eirigh Na Greine expression, our Islay tour came to a close with a special Caol Ila from Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice range.
Caol Ila Sept 1997 (bottled 2009) 43% (Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
- Colour – lovely pale gold
- Nose – Peat – not in a crazy overwhelming way but very much present with a light touch. A nice smoked kabab, more smoked meats, then a delightful perfume, caramel, charcoal. That insanely yummy distinct indescribable ‘yum’ malty quality with hints of brine.
- Palate – Initially a lot of caramel, charcoal, a strong decisive character, oily, then dry, bitter, ashy warm, like curling up next to a warm fireplace kinda feel, opens up further and meeeeeellllooow, rich robust, complex and ever so smooth
- Finish – While doesn’t have that crazy mature OMG finish, still ever so nice, long and oh so good with a little herbal flourish
- Water – Loved it without and loved it with.. sweater, custard, creamy
Naturally, when we began our sniffing, sipping and savouring, it was completely blind.
Given the theme of the evening, our speculation immediately turned to different Islay distilleries – Laphroig? Lagavulin..? Caol Ila…???! With most favouring Caol Ila
However it was equally clear this was a special expression, eventually most concluded it might be from an independent bottler like Gordon MacPhail.
With the unveiling, there was an exuberant ‘Yeaaaas!!’ feeling rather smug in our guessing prowess – at least on this evening.
Our overall impression was that this is simply gorgeous 12 year old… with comments like “This is my next buy!” and “This is what ALL Caol Ila’s should taste like!” could be heard.
As an added experiment, I pulled out the standard Caol Ila 12 year expression – while clearly the same family, not in the same league.
Here are what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say:
- Nose – Hints of sweet cured ham, with a subtle ashy nose. Sweet honey influences, with a delicate malt note.
- Taste – Some delicate brine, with a rounded sea air influence. A warmth lingers and delicate peat embers develop.
And with water:
- Nose – Sweet and fresh, a more delicate sweet cured nose, the ash is now more pronounced, with a lingering smoke.
- Taste – Some cigar ash, with a rounded sweetness. Delicate salt influences and fresh.
So there you have it… another fine evening with a trio of single malts from the Islay region.
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