One of the yearly features of the Diageo Special Releases since 2006, arriving on Islay like the Barnacle Geese from Greenland just before the winter, is an unpeated Caol Ila. The releases vary in age, from NAS to the 8 year olds released in 2006 through 2008, with 2009 seeing it at 10 years old. The age has been moving up steadily, with last year reaching 15 and this year seeing a whopping 17 year old whisky.
One steady feature of the unpeated Caol Ila is the smokiness it, nevertheless, possesses. Light, but present, it’s utterly delightful.
Caol Ila Unpeated 17 Year Old – 2015 Special Releases (55.9%)
Appearance: Gold, thin legs coming slowly off a necklace.
Nose: Honey, vanilla, lightest hint of smoke and a bit of salty cereal. Lemon, star fruit and a hint of ripe mango bordering a a sour note after some time in the glass. There’s also this almost unreachable floral note, with more vanilla behind it. A few drops of water bring out more honey and highlight the fruity notes.
Palate: Very sweet honey, a light smoky peat (unpeated, you say?), gentle spice and lemon meringue. The first thought that comes to mind as you lay the glass down is “wait, have another sip”. This is layered with distinct waves of sweetness, smokiness and spice washing over the tongue, with a maltiness coming through on the back of the palate. Water adds to the spiciness.
Linger: Pretty long, sweet and spicy, with a lot of spice sticking to the sides of the cheeks. Water makes the spice remain even longer on the tongue.
Complex and well made, this could easily become a regular tipple. Truly Caol Ila at it’s shiniest, and that hint of smoke in the “Unpeated Malt” is a bonus!