I’ve been looking forward to this one! In 2014, I tried Cadenhead’s Small Batch release of Caol Ila 29 and it totally blew me away.
Given that the indy bottling was £100 and Diageo’s official Caol Ila 30 year old goes for over £400, I think my mind’s already made up as to what the best deal is.
But what about the whisky itself?
Nose: Sweet clementines, but also that cloudy apple juice note, tangy sherbet, some milk chocolate.
Palate: Very oily, with more orange citrus notes, and some tropical fruits bordering on melon and pineapple. Woody notes, with soft peat smoke and a peppery tang. Some leathery, savoury flavours in there.
Finish: Quite peppery, with lingering smoke.
It has a lot of the same characteristics that the Cadenhead’s bottling has. Gentle smoke and citrus notes with some interesting fruit coming through as well as an oily, savoury influence from the wood that gives it that dusty, leathery quality.
It’s an interesting whisky, for sure. But it is quite peppery and woody on the finish and the flavour in comparison to the 29 seems quite subdued. Still good, of course; but, I didn’t enjoy it as much. There’s a difference between being subtle, and being faint.
The Caol Ila 30 is a vatting of 30-year-old whisky aged in American and European refill casks. I’d imagine Diageo have tried to engineer it to have similar qualities to a 30 year old Port Ellen – leather, soft smoke, maritime savoury notes etc. They have a lot more Caol Ila stock to play with, and the golden goose of Port Ellen will stop laying eggs eventually.
Sadly, I think the refill casks they used here were a little too tired to carry the spirit for 30 years and the vatting process between American and European oak has lost something in translation.
If I hadn’t tried such a sensational Caol Ila from Cadenhead beforehand then I may have been more impressed, but it’s not the way it panned out. Sorry, Diageo, this time you lose.
Love the packaging, though. It’ll look lovely in display cabinets across the world.
Samples and bottles available from the Chaps at Master of Malt for £32.34 and £425 respectively.