While Caol Ila aged over ten years seems to be getting kind of thin on the ground, Gordon & Macphail still have fairly deep reserves and regularly release it at more respectable ages. While the majority of these are vintage releases, this one simply has an age statement, more like their Macphail's Collection lineup.
This whisky was aged in refill sherry hogsheads, then bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration.
G&M Connoisseur's Choice Caol Ila 10 Year
Nose: solid but not overwhelming Caol Ila peat, fresh tobacco, putty, lightly farm-y, wood ash, seashore, subtle oak, cedar bark, faint sherry in the background. After adding a few drops of water the the same elements are present but more muddled - the peat and oak integrate to become less well-defined - but peat becomes more vegetal than smokey, there is more sherry, and a touch of orange comes out.
Taste: malt sweetness up front, a touch of berries and sherry in the middle, slowly fading into rising peat, tar, and moderate oak tannins. After dilution elements integrate - the malt and sherry come together in the front and middle, while the peat and oak integrate and spread out at the back.
Finish: oak, light peat, wood ash, hints of sherry, malt sweetness in the background
It was a bit frustrating to have to use so many "you're going to have to dig for it" adjectives for the notes beyond the peat, but this was a very subtle whisky in other respects. Whatever casks were used for this release were clearly well-used, because the cask influence in general is quite unobtrusive and any sherry is difficult to detect.
With all that said, this isn't a bad whisky, it's just that you need to calibrate your expectations. While a little higher strength, this feels very similar to the OB 12 Year in terms of its punch. Also, don't expect much in the way of sherry, despite what it says on the bottle. And because of all that I would be disinclined to buy a bottle for more than the standard 12 Year as I don't think it has a lot more to offer.
Lagavulin 21 year old 1991 (thank you, Brett!)
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