windy windy windy. So windy you can hardly walk. Raining a fair amount too. We didnt do much today, went to Bowmore for some shopping then went to Caol Ila in the afternoon for a tasting. There is no parking at Caol Ila, this year we had to park in a field in Kellis and a mini bus took us down. The farmer who sat in his tracker all day at the car park didnt seem to bothered by the weather, but we found it hard to actually get from the car to the bus.
Unsurprisingly there were not that many people at Caol Ila, and those that were there were huddled under the limited cover. Good news was there were plenty of festival bottles left, plus they had some of the new Moch (more on this later). Having bought our quota of all these, we retired to the dram tent to wait for our masterclass. Caol Ila are the most generous of the distilleries with their whisky. The guys in the tent basically keep filling glasses and you can take your fill. No tickets, no cost, just generous drams! This is how it should be, it doesnt cost them much and creates a great atmosphere. Whats more, they were dishing out the distillery only bottling, which is the remains of one of the distillers editions (as with Laga).
So we then went to our master class with distillery manager Bill Stichell who has been working at Caol Ila all his life. He is cut from the same cloth as Lagavulun’s Iain McArthur and part of a dying breed. Even though they are not polished public speakers, I’d much rather do a tasting with one of these than with young sales people who dont actually know much about whisky.
The tasting was in the old filling room underneath 5000 casks of Lagavulin (no Caol Ila is stored here any more, its all on the main land). The whiskies were
1. Caol Ila 12 year old. Standard expression, oily, peaty and very drinkable.
2. Caol Ila Distillers. 12 year old finished in Muscatel for 6 months. I’m never a big fan of wine finishes, but this one worked ok. Pat liked this a lot.
3. Moch. The Moch is a new NAS offering. We bought three bottles which will appear in one of our tastings soon. More on this below.
4. Feis Ile. 600 numbered bottles drawn from a Bodega cask (Cask Number 301696!) filled in February 2000 at a meaty 64.3%. So as far as I know Bodega is a sherry cask and the press release implies its spent its whole life in sherry. It certainly tastes lightly sherried, but it is very lightly coloured and I would have thought it was a finish. Very interesting.
5. Unpeated 12 year old. This was very nice, fruity and like a light highlander, reminded us of Balblair. Impressed with this, wasnt expecting much.
We also had samples of peated and unpeated new make, which we did the aftershave effect with. So a short and sweet tasting, I thought the measures were a bit small, the Feis sample in particular was tiny. Still, that was rather churlish of me given their generousity at the dram tent.
Caol Ila have stopped offering their 18 year, apparently because of the demands of Johnny Walker for the spirit. This is a great shame as I am a fan of the 18, I might buy a bottle for later. Bill reckoned they would bring it back in time once stock levels equalize.
They are soon undergoing a major renovation and will be out of action for a while. This will but extra pressure on their stock levels, so maybe buy Caol Ila as an investment?
Made it back home through wind, rain and hail, only to drop one of our bags in the kitchen.
it was one of the three Moch bottles I bought for the club Still, we managed to rescue about 500 ml of it, and of course there was nothing for it but to drink it. At this point the power also went off, so we threw logs on the fire, lit a load of candles and tucked into the Moch.
First reaction was, this is a good session whisky. Its clearly young, particularly evident on the nose which is quite barley. Its lightly peated (Bill said it was the same spirit as usual Caol Ila peated at 40ppm, and who am I to argue, but it does not taste as peaty as the usual CI).
Nose: like a peaty lemsip, lemon and green apple skins, floral. A bit sweaty.
Taste: More lemon, coconut, sweet.
Finish: Rum and raisen ice cream
I have no idea what Diageo are doing with this expression. The distillery has very limited stocks and none of them thought it was going on general sale. Maybe its aimed at the european market, maybe its just an experiment, but whatever it is, they have botched the release big time. Caol Ila fans were up in arms because they cant buy it even though tasting notes are on line. I’m told it was sold through their friends scheme in limited numbers, but there is very little information available about it. Its not an exclusive release, its an entry level islay, so what are they playing at?
Big weather today. All ferries and flights cancelled. Hopefully it will get better, although there are worse places to be stranded.
p.s. Promise more Arby pictures tomorrow Martin