...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Caol Ila 10 year old Connoisseurs Choice, Gordon & MacPhail

Yes, one of my own bottles! No mooching today!

The above photo was taken a couple weeks before we left California, and that's about the time I salvaged a 2-ounce review sample for the future. And now I'm in the future.

I took no notes while drinking directly from this bottle, but the liquid did vanish quickly. Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail reviewed a sample from this bottle back in 2016. I have no idea if other samples are out there somewhere.

Aside from the time I had the privilege of drinking a Caperdonich 1968, I've found the Connoisseurs Choice series to be underwhelming. At least this time there's sherry and peat (probably) involved...

Distillery: Caol Ila
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice
Age: 10 years old (???? - ????)
Maturation: refill sherry hogsheads
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(review sample taken from the bottom third of my bottle)

It's the color of straw, so perhaps not that much sherry? Lemons and brown sugar up front in the nose, peat and pepper in the background. Dried stone fruits and mint candy in the midground. After 20 minutes, it's just mint candy and dried fruits, with almost no peat. Bigger peat on the palate, though. Overall, it's sweet and simple, a little floral. More ashy than smoky. It gets ashier, saltier and bitterer with time, then hints of dried berries and vanilla show up. The moderate-length finish has peat, sugar and salt. It gets tangier and bitterer with time.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
A straightforward delivery of ash, sugar syrup, mint, brown sugar and lemon zest in the nose. The palate has gotten sweeter and more acidic. The bitterness remains, though the peat is barely there. A note of moldy oak rolls in. The finish is sweet, acidic and mildly peaty.

On the Whelmed Scale of 1 through 10, this sits at 5, which is better than average (in my experience) for Connoisseurs Choice. It's a perfectly acceptable sipper, one that can be consumed casually and mostly forgotten. The peat is often shy, though not as hidden as the sherry. Though I didn't try the two side by side, I'd say the official Caol Ila 12yo has a full step up on this whisky. So the Caol Ila 10 year old Connoisseurs Choice wasn't worth its $75 price tag. And thus goes my final CC bottle.

One final word, or paragraph, about Connoisseurs Choice. If you peruse the European retail market, you may have noticed Gordon & MacPhail have done a complete packaging and branding overhaul. No more Cask Strength Series. Most G&Ms appear to be Connoisseurs Choice, whether 46%abv or 66%abv, small batch or single barrel. The bottles look sturdier, the labels curvier. As mentioned, the old Connoisseurs Choice always sounded and seemed better than it was. The fact that it had been around for a few decades also brought it some cachet. Goodbye ugly but comfy map labels; hello front-and-center tasting notes. Perhaps the product will be better. Or maybe it's just new visuals for the same whisky.

Availability - American market, a few bottles may still be around
Pricing - $65-$75
Rating - 84