...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Single Malt Report: Caol Ila 31 year old 1984 Cadenhead 20th Anniversary London Special Edition

On the same night that my friend asked me to grade a blind sample of Craigellachie 13, I was given a second blind pour.  That one was awesome.  I was asked to name the distillery.  It was definitely an old whisky, super duper fruity.  I declared it a Speysider, and guessed that it was an old fruity ex-bourbon Longmorn (because I do love them so).  My friend asked, "Do you find any peat in there?"  "Nnnnnnnnnnno," I replied cautiously.  "Yeah, neither do I.  It's a Caol Ila."

I've had long matured peated whiskies whose phenolics go light and floral over time.  But this was the first time I'd had one whose peat totally melted away like this.  A few months later I had the pleasure of sampling it again at Peatin' Meetin' (the whisky gets a brief mention in this week's boozedancing post), and I walked away with my own sample before the bottle was emptied.

Keep in mind this whisky is only sold at Cadenhead's London shop (whose twentieth anniversary this bottling celebrates) and they don't ship outside the UK.  So I guess if you're in Cadenhead's London whisky shop and are googling for a review of this whisky, then here is a review of this whisky.

pic from the official site

Distillery: Caol Ila
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Port Askaig, Islay
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead's
Range: 20th Anniversary London Special Edition
Age: 31 years old (1984 - May 2015)
Maturation: first fill ex-bourbon barrel (source)
Limited bottling: 168
Alcohol by Volume: 54.3%

Its color is amber, lighter than Tuesday's "Unpeated" 12yo.  The nose starts with fruit, lots of fruit.  Peaches, nectarines, loquats.  Later on there's honeydew.  Strawberry candy and orange blossoms.  Turkish delights.  There's a little bit of butter, honey, toffee, and musty oak.  On the palate it's malt and toffee first.  Then tart oranges and lemons.  The texture is so silky it's almost erotic.  Almost.  A soft mouth-filling oak spice lingers and lingers and lingers right into the finish [note: this description is getting saucy], where it's reminiscent of old armagnac.  Then malt, salt, and lemon oils.  It's not loud but it's long.

Oh man.  I'd violate my $200 rule and several moral standards for one bottle of this stuff.  If you're in the shop and looking for peat, then find a younger CI (or one of the usual suspects).  But if you're searching for something of the old gorgeous Speyside style and don't want to spend $500+, this is a viable option.

Anyone going to London soon?  I'm kidding.  Sort of.

Availability - At the shop itself
Pricing - £176
Rating - 93


  1. That's an amazing ABV for that age.

  2. Maybe an early iteration of unpeated Caol Ila? Sounds great anyway.

    1. You might be right. I thought they hadn't started with the unpeated stuff until the '90s, but I just saw that Ingvar Ronde (the Malt Whisky Yearbook guy) wrote that the distillery did experiment with some unpeated batches in the '80s.