...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Caol Ila 5 year old 2008 Hepburn's Choice for K&L

I'm starting off this Caol Ila-and-Clynelish Month with the youngest of the bunch, a 5 year old from the distillery on Port Askaig. It was bottled by the Laing family via their Hepburn's Choice label, and sold exclusively in the USA by K&L Wine Merchants.

My luck with ≤8 year old indie bottlings has been poor. Why indie companies choose to bottle such young single malt (and why retailers elect to sell it) is a little fuzzy to me. I mean, people are buying these babies......though not with tremendous speed, as can be seen by the growing number of options on European retailers' websites. I mean how many concurrent bottlings of 8 year old Glentauchers is enough? Anyway, Caol Ila.

Distillery: Caol Ila
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Hepburn's Choice
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 5 years (2008-2014)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Bottles: 314
Alcohol by Volume: 61.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thanks to St. Brett of Riverside for the sample!)

It's the color of straw. The nose is very vegetal. Cruciferous specifically, without being farty. There's also cocoa power, cumin, celery juice and a little bit of tar. The peat is similar to that of current Ardbeg 10. The palate is warm. Very warm. It's also aggressively sweet, with cinnamon, lemon candy and Blue Moon beer. Then comes a massive chili oil strike, followed by clay. It finishes hot and sweet and peaty and tangy.

It's time to apply a quantity of water Ralfy would be proud of.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets brighter. More sugar and a squirt of lemon juice. Grassy and ashy. Unfortunately, the palate goes the other direction. It's just hot and peppery. Not very palatable. Some late cloying aspartame and a strange bitterness. It finishes cloying, grassy and bitter.


Why this gotta be?

I traded a blown out palate for confirmation of my intro's complaint. This whisky isn't even half baked. Caol Ila can grow up to be such great whisky (which is one of the motivations behind this month's reviews), why dispose of all the potential? When neat, this whisky is brash and violent, but not unique or weird enough to be its own monster. And it is, frankly, awful when diluted. What the hell awaits me on Wednesday?

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $49.99
Rating - 75 (when neat only; 15-20 points lower when diluted)