The Whisky Tasting Club

Day 3: Caol Ila

Caol Ila dont have any parking on site, so they set up parking in Ballygrant and ran buses down. Because we have the dog with us, we decided to park at ballygrant and walk down past some lochs. A lovely walk, see next post. We had booked a tasting master class with Caol Ila and I was worried what we could do with arby. Couldnt leave him in the car that far away, didnt want to leave him in the cottage, so gambled on them letting us taking him into the tasting. The whole island is really dog friendly, so I was confident they would succumb to his fluffy charms. However, get down to the distillery and am told firstly that the dont allow dogs and secondly they had mistakenly cancelled my booking due to confusion over our lagavulin booking. Not to worry, I was not that fussed tbh. The sun came out, they were liberally dishing out the cask strength and we went and sat on the grass above a beach looking at a stunning view of Jura and ate a bacon sandwhich. Strong whisky, bacon butty, sunshine and by the sea. Can you ask for more?

We stayed for a couple of hours, drinking and chilling. We watched some fishermen bring in some huge lobsters which they were selling for £10-£15, which is reasonable as they were huge. We were tempted, but they were alive and we dont really have the equipment to do it (and how do you carry them home?).

There were limited events on here, a single food stall raising money for a local charity doing excellent bacon rolls for £2 (have I mentioned them already?) and some music in the square. It was a nice atmosphere though, and I’m glad we went. I like caol ila, I always have a bottle of JW black label in, I often drink the 12 and occasionally the 18. Its a solid, middle of the road whisky that fits right into my preferred taste profile (i.e. peaty but balanced with some spice and a bit of salt), but it doesnt set my pulse racing like port charlotte or supernova.  

The festival bottling is an 11 year old european oak sherry cask bottled at

Caol Ila festival bottling

61.9%. We are tasting it with the cask strength caol ila only available at the distillery (no age statement).  For the Feis Ile bottling, there is sherry on the nose, but tempered. A pleasant unassuming nose. Its very strong at 62%, so you get a blast of alcohol, but after that there is a nice balance of peat and sherry. There is ..oh no!  just knocked over my cask strength glass! Managed to save most, but spilling whisky is wrong. Oh dear, its only 6pm, could get messy tonight.  Anyway, the festival whisky has a alcohol hit, fades with a nice delicate sherry with some peat, and strangely I thought I detected a japanese style mushroom taste, but I’m probably wrong. Michelle says the nose makes her mouth water, is it salty? Quite possibly.   Long finish with a bit of tannin on the tongue.  Overall the feis ile is much more ‘south coast’ islay than an typical caol ila might be, almost laphroaig like. We like it! Water brings out much more pepper. I look forward to our final tasting with all the bottlings.

The cask strength is much sweeter and softer, very different nose, much more traditional caol ila. Not much more to say because I just drank something with traces of washing up liquid in it, so cant really taste anything. Gross. Michelle says its got a peppery start, a nice mild peat in the middle then some wood in the end. Good length.

p.s. please remember I warned you we dont do elaborate tasting notes, I’m sure others will give you more descriptive taste profiles e.g. burnt asparagus, cats pee on a gooseberry bush, car tyres dipped in icecream etc.

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