Caol Ila 1998 Unpeated (2014 special release)

Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 1998
Age: 15 years old
ABV: 60.3%
Cask: First-fill bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s a curve ball – a Caol Ila without even a trace of peat. Will it be recognisable as the gentle, smoky, maritime malt that we know and love? Let’s see……

Nose: Milk, pear syrup, honeysuckle, acetone, vanilla, citrus and sherbet.

Palate: Lemon candy, and more sherbet. Herby, floral notes – lavender and thyme. Sweet malt and cereal, with a little more milk – whole milk, too, quite creamy. Viscous mouthfeel, but not actually creamy.

Finish: Some citrus tang remains, a touch of salt and toasted oak at the very end.

I never would have guessed the ABV is so high. There’s no burn at all, the spirit feels very soft in the mouth with delicate notes to the flavour.

Caol Ila usually gets lemon candy and salt in the tasting notes, and those are most definitely still in evidence. Even the sherbet quality on the nose, which I always assumed to be the peat talking.

I tried the Stitchell’s Reserve unpeated Caol Ila last year and wasn’t especially impressed. This bottling’s head and shoulders above it and maintains what we knew all along – the Caol Ila distillery produces some fantastic distillate, which can clearly stand on its feet without peated barley to zest it up.

No samples currently, but the chaps at Master of Malt have bottles available for £73.96. That’s pretty good for a 15-year-old spirit at such a high cask strength – throw in the intrigue of an unpeated Caol Ila and the limited bottling run of 10,668 and you have a real bargain.

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