Sunday, 14 September 2008

Caol Ila Distillery

Caol Ila Distillery
Port Askaig
Argyll PA46 7RL

Islay, Scotland - Active

Flavour profile

The Wordle below doesn't fully reflect my impression of Caol Ila. Yes, there's smoke and peat, but the major flavour element besides those is soy sauce, then maybe lemons and honey. For me, behind the smoke and peat Caol Ila whisky is usually sweetness and light veiled in a savoury, umami, salty cloak. The word "soy sauce" should be bigger.

All 5 flavour elements are prominently displayed in the Wordle. I suppose Caol Ila whisky wouldn't be Ileach if it didn't have at least a little smoke and peat, but it doesn't have a little, it has quite a lot! That big "smoke" word is very appropriate.

All the Caol Ilas I've tasted so far are here.

Caol Ila 16 yo 1991/2007 cask strength - very good
Caol Ila 12 yo - good
Caol Ila Cask Strength NAS - good
SMWS 53.115 (Caol Ila 15 yo 1991/2007) - very good

Distillery history

Founded by Hector Henderson in 1846. Henderson sold just 6 years later, and the distillery eventually passed through a succession of owners to United Distillers (eventually Diageo) in 1992. The distillery was silent from 1930-1937, 1941-1945 and 1972-1974.

As one of 7 or more distilleries on Islay, the malt from Caol Ila used to almost entirely be used in Johnnie Walker. This was so until 2002, where Diageo "promoted" Caol Ila to Classic Malt status, and began to sell official bottlings. There are even some unpeated official bottlings available now. Unfortunately, due to the expansion in production, almost all Caol Ila whisky is now matured on the mainland.

Potted distillery facts

Water source: Loch Nam Ban
Eight, larch, 60,000 litres each
Wash stills:
Three, normal neck, 35,345 litres each
Spirit stills: Three, normal neck, 29,549 litres each
Spirit still Lyne arm: Nearly 5 degrees descending
Production per year:
3,500,000 litres

- The Scottish Whisky Distilleries, Misako Udo

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