Caol Ila is one of our favourite distilleries. It is situated on the Sound of Islay overlooking Jura and is in a fabulous location. The distillery itself isn’t the prettiest, but the position its in makes up for it in leaps and bounds. I’ve spent a couple of days there and when the sun is shining it is truly beautiful to sit on the edge of the pier and watch the world go by. Astonishingly we haven’t yet reviewed a Caol Ila on our blog yet, but Wemyss have now put that right by sending us a sample of their recently released ‘Lemon Smoke‘ This Caol Ila is from 1996, bottled at 46% and is limited to a mere 380 bottles.
Initially on the nose we found, perhaps unsurprisingly, citrus and smokey notes (it does have to be said that Wemyss are incredibly accurate when labelling their whisky – you know the basics of what you will get, but there is always more too!). We then narrowed this down to an almost sooty, dirty lemon peel fragrance combined with hints of cloves and oranges. I was taken back to standing under the Caol Ila stills on an almost unbearably hot day behind the massive windows that overlook neighbouring Jura where we could smell the high alcohol of the new make spirit. This whisky is definitely typical of Caol Ila on the nose and is powerful enough to satisfy your peaty, smokey cravings.
The palate was a little gentle to begin with, almost smouldering behind the scenes as the smoke build up like a thunderstorm. It then unleased it’s big coal and peat flavours, again mixed in with some cloves, before hints of chocolate come to the fore. As it ebbed away slowly we found citrus embers – these can be brought out too by adding the merest drop of water to the dram.
The finish remained big, full of residual smoke mixed in with that lemon peel that we found on the nose.
I throughly enjoyed this after a day on the fells in the Lake District; we had climbed Cat Bells, successfully avoided the rain and as the night drew in it was a great dram to enjoy in our little cosy cottage – we could almost have been a couple of hundred miles further north in Islay. Magical.