Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Distinguished Gentleman

Caol Ila 25 - 43%


Over the years, I've very much signed up to the notion of naturally-presented whisky. To this day, when researching a potential purchase, I find myself reciting internally the mantra, "cask-strength, unchillfiltered, natural colour" over and over. As a result, the Stumblevault houses a butt-load (technical term) of >50% abv bottles. This is always a good thing.

Except, of course, when it isn't. Every now and then, I'll find myself looking for a nightcap that doesn't shout, doesn't prickle my nose and leaves my taste buds well and truly unslapped. Something refined, something.....something civilised. Normally, this has me marching towards the top shelf for a drop of old Glenmorangie or rummaging through the bottom for a beautifully-constructed Bruichladdich but what do you do when you're in the grip of a peat craving? You grab a bottle from one of Islay's most underrated distilleries, that's what.
The peat's not immediately obvious, but it's there. This isn't the carnival of lemon and bonfires that I'd usually associate with Caol Ila either. There's smoke, certainly, but it's dialled down and infused with sweetcure mackerel, vanilla, toffee and a restrained earthiness. This is far from industrial; it's white collar Caol Ila. A little patience rewards you with a sweet citric hum and a hint of liquorice.
Age has tamed the citric peatiness I associate with the standard 12yo but hasn't washed it away. It's still there but with an elegance resulting from the supporting notes of butter-toffee, carefully-measured wood spice and aniseed. Sweet smoke lends a helping hand towards the finish with a hint of sea-spray.
Long, but gentle. Elements of salt, ash and lemon peel with a mouth-coating peatiness that has you pouring a second glass before you know it.
A lot of people, including me, bemoaned the 25yo's drop to 43%. When compared to the dozens of cask-strength indie offerings out there, this is going to seem a little tame. However, on those days you want something refined and restrained, yet entertaining, very few can beat this.
Grade: A
It's a mood whisky, but I'm in the mood.

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