It seems that for 2015 Diageo decided to make another use of their Distiller’s Reserve casks and do a triple maturation: First standard casks, then using the DE casks (PX for Lagavulin and Moscatel for Caol Ila) for a second maturation and “old oak puncheons” for a third gentle maturation. I’m not really sure what the effect of this is, and I’ll let you know just as soon as I get a taste of either of them.
In last year’s expression, there were no pyrotechnics, just whisky straight from the barrel. This is a 2002 vintage matured in refill American oak hogsheads, and bottled at 55.5% ABV. Last year was the first year that the Fèis Ìle bottling was selected by new distillery manager David Wood, after Billy Stitchell retired in 2013. In the slew of special bottlings for the Islay festival, this one stands out for having no “shtick”. It’s just…..whisky!
Caol Ila 2002 – 2014 Fèis Ìle Festival Bottling, (55.5% ABV)
Appearance: Straw, slow and thick legs.
Nose: Sweet and lightly peated, lemon and coconut, with notes of honey and ash. Water brings out loads of coconut, honeysuckle flowers and touches of pepper.
Palate: Sweet lemonade and earthy peat in a light mouth feel.
Linger: Light ash on the tongue with honey and sweet lemon (lemonade again?) with spice in the throat.
On its own, this is good whisky. Tasted within the flight of Fèis Ìle expressions, it was somewhat plebeian, and that probably does it injustice. While I didn’t get to taste it outside a full festival bottling tasting, my friend and colleague Yoav did. He’ll be publishing his notes on Whisky Gospel, and you might want to hit the link and read his conclusions on it.