With no Port Ellen or Brora in the mix in this year’s Diageo Special Releases, the most-prized award goes to this, a 35 year old whisky from Islay’s Caol Ila. This one was distilled in 1982 and was aged in a hodgepodge of refill American oak hogsheads and refill American and European oak butts.
Old Islay malt is almost always a treasure, and this whisky is no exception. The nose is instantly aggressive, still quite peaty but prickly with notes of baking spice, camphor, and just a bit of sea spray. The palate is immediately engaging, showcasing a richness that’s hard to come by in younger malts. Bold and creamy — and not at all hot despite a 58.1% abv — a sweet fruit note hits first, all apples, peaches, and green banana. This fades in short order as the smoky peat muscles its way in, and as the combination reaches the finish, it takes on an interesting apricot note, dusted perhaps with a spicy, citrusy lemongrass character.
Exotic and unique, this is one of those cases where a 50ml sample just wasn’t enough to really explore everything the whisky had to offer. I tried my best, y’all.
116.2 proof. 3276 bottles produced.
A- / $989 / malts.com