...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Caol Ila 29 year old 1990 Gordon & MacPhail, batch 19/126 for Taiwan

(Caol Ila cluster homepage)

You didn't think I was going to leave you with just a bunch of teenage Caol Ilas, did ya? 2024's Caol Ila cluster will be more varied and may include some older stuff because this year's CI mini-cluster has left me with mixed feelings, much like 2023 itself. There were a few very good pours in the bunch, but I'm a bit troubled by the aggressiveness from the majority of the casks here. To experience such oak-juice-styled whiskies from two classic independent bottlers leaves me even less interested in buying whiskies blindly now. Of course, once I sample anything good here, the whisky has been sold out for years. So my bottle purchases will remain happily moderate.

Back to the whisky at hand. It's time to wrap up this mini-cluster with a 29 year old refill hoggie from the Port Askaig distillery. Life was pretty good when I was 29 and full of spirit, so my expectations of this whisky are cautiously optimistic. That makes sense to me.

Distillery: Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice
Age: 29 years (1990 - 12 July 2019)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask #: batch 19/126
Outturn: 219 bottles
Exclusive to: Taiwan
Alcohol by Volume: 51.7%
(from a bottle split)


The nose centers on a graceful mix of sandalwood, peaches, apricots, almond extract, and bonfire embers. Notes of citronella, saline, and black walnuts arrive after 45 minutes. The palate is full of toasty goodness (nuts, oak, peat), lemon candy, cara cara oranges, and guava juice. Its smoke drifts between bonfire, barbecue, and seaweed styles over time. There's sooooo much citrus in the finish, as well as a few dried apricots and dried apples too. The barbecue-ish smoke lingers in the background.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Smoke rolls into the nose darker and sootier now, with citronella and pineapple beneath. Smaller notes of brown sugar and ocean appear later. There's less fruit and heftier smoke on the palate. It's sweeter and more acidic as well. It finishes with lemons, salt, wood smoke, and a slight bitterness.


In lieu of finishing my personal life on a high note on the last day of 2023, I'm ending this year’s whisky tastings with a gem. I adore this stuff, in fact the first note I wrote about the palate is, "Oh shit." Period included. Once diluted, it's good, but when neat it's fabulous. A sucker for the guava, peaches, sandalwood, seaweed, and black walnuts, I am raising my second glass of this Caol Ila to you my great readers and wishing you all a lovely 2024.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 91 (neat)