For the last decade Diageo has been putting out annual releases of unpeated Caol Ila distilled between 1997 and 1999. Ages and casks have varied from 8 to 17 years old and from ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and European oak casks.
The 2012 release from from European oak casks and bottled at 59.3%, probably without chill filtration but maybe with coloring.
Thanks to Florin for the sample.
Caol Ila 14 Year Unpeated 2012 Release
Nose: heavy oak, caramel, ripe apples, sea air/salinity, dry malt, light creamy vanilla, berries in an almost sherried mode. After adding a few drops of water the oak and malt shift closer to balance, the salinity becomes savory yeast extract, more vanilla comes out, and the fruit notes mostly disappear.
Taste: cask strength sweetness up front, strong oak and tannins come in right behind, apple and salty undertones throughout, fade out through bittersweet caramel and a touch of barrel char at the back. After dilution the sweetness becomes stronger and spreads out while integrating with the oak to give a brighter but more flat profile, and berries are added to the apples in the background to give an almost refill sherry character.
Finish: caramel, heavy oak, a little hot, green apple
In all honesty this whisky feels pointless. The oak dominates the spirit so thoroughly that it could be from practically any distillery in Scotland producing unpeated malt whisky. And while I can kind of detect some European oak character, it feels much more like first-fill American oak ex-bourbon casks. The 2010 release that I reviewed a while back was also oak-heavy, but not so much that it felt out of balance. If you happen to see a bottle sitting on the shelf at your local liquor store, don't bother. There are any number of cask strength whiskies out there that would be better for the same money or less.
For a similar review, see Michael Kravitz's take on this malt.
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