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Monday, December 31, 2018

Caol Ila 32 year old 1980 Sovereign for K&L

I'm feeling a little worn out with both Caol Ila and Clynelish after this Caol Ila-Clynelish month. There have been no terribly profound discoveries during this run, except that SMWS bottles a good whisky once in a while. And unless today's 32 year old whisky soils the bed — and I doubt it will — Caol Ila was the clear winner between the two Diageo distilleries this month.

Regarding Clynelish, the official 14 year old is preferable to all but the last two Clynelish bottlings I reviewed. And though the official Caol Ila 12 and 18 are very good, they were matched or beaten by most of the CIs I tried this month.

That leads to this, the 32 year old, the oldest Caol Ila I've ever tried. I just typed "tired" instead of "tried". Between overtime workdays, family parties, travel and two children, I am indeed ever tired. Whisky!

Distillery: Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Hamilton
Range: The Sovereign
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 32 years old (1980 - 2013)
Maturation: probably a bourbon barrel
Cask numberHH10083
Bottles: ~150
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%
(thanks to Brett P for the sample!)

The nose is very fruity: lychee, guava and white nectarines. What starts out as a roasted peat note morphs into an ocean peat note (think seaweed and brine) after 20 minutes. The smoke's intensity builds with time as well. A sort of smoked chocolate note appears after a while. I've never experienced a palate like this. Grape candy and ganja. Like, that's it, man, for the first 15 minutes. Then it gets tarry and salty. Grape bubblegum, band aids, mint and cherries. A lot of spiciness from the oak, but it's not tannic. Oh wait, yeah here come the tannins. It finishes smokier and bitterer than the palate. Tart berries, dry tannic red wine. Hints of the grape candy. Peat and heat last the longest.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or > ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose turns into something like a classic teenage Caol Ila. Candied peat, cured meat, tar and dried oregano. The palate becomes much sweeter. Tart citrus, tart berries. Small salty and savory notes. It gets peppery with time. The finish is noticeably shorter. It's tangy and sweet, but also has moments of smoke and peppercorns.

If only the nose's great combination of fruit and peat had carried over to the palate, this would have been a killer. But the weight of the oak presses down late in the palate, then right through the finish. Still, the palate is kooky and unique enough to provide lots of entertainment. I don't think dilution did it any favors.

While I heartily encourage people to ditch The Port Ellen Chase in favor of well-matured Caol Ila, this one probably won't convince too many folks. Though it's a good whisky, it's not the best Caol Ila I had this month.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $269.99
Rating - 87 (neat only)