Caol Ila 12 Year Old – Review

According to my handy, pocket-sized, 6″ thick, 15lb., 1961 Websters New International Dictionary (2nd Edition, unabridged), “smoke” is defined thusly:

smoke (smōk), n. [AS. smoca; akin to AS. smeocan to smoke, smēcan to smoke, smēc, smyc, smoke, LG. & D. smook smoke, G. schmauch, Gr. smychiein to smolder, Lith. smaugti suffocate, choke.] 1. the gaseous products of burning organic materials, as wood, coal, peat, tobacco,etc., when rendered visible by the presence of small particles of carbon, which finally settle as soot…

Just a little etymological prelude.  If the Ancient Greeks were drinking Caol Ila 12 Year Old, I think they’d sip, smile, look at each other and say, “smychiein”

Nose:  Peat smoke, but a softer, less insistent peat smoke, less medicinal and strong than Ardbeg or Laphroig. A little wood smoke as well…perhaps a little smoke from burning grass. Orange or even tangerine citrus.  Faint floral and vanilla notes as well.

Palate:  Begins sweet & rich and has a wonderful oily, coating mouth feel. The peat smoke here is bright and mingles with other smokey flavors like green wood smoke and a little pipe smoke.  Holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg even a little clove but with no drying quality.  In fact, though it has only faint citrus notes on the palate, it has a very “acidic” quality in that it’s mouth-watering and, I’ll be honest, extremely hard to stop drinking.

Finish:  Long, phenolic and a little peppery, but still with a good roundness.  Smooth.

Thoughts: I love this whisky.  Wonderfully balanced with all the requisite Islay components, only presented brightly and cleanly, not brooding and heavy.  Smokey and rich yet deft & nimble, this is a happy, sunny day Islay.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old, Islay

43% ABV

Score:  91


5 thoughts on “Caol Ila 12 Year Old – Review

    1. Well, I just learned that Phenolic is some kind of plastic molding compound…which is not what I meant at all. When they talk about phenols in whisky, they’re talking about a smokey. coal-tar like taste that comes from smoking the barley with bricks of peat. Phenols are the chemical compound in the smoke that give it that flavor. Sounds kind of gross, but oh…it’s not.

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