1996 Caol Ila 15 Year Old K&L Exclusive Sovereign Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (stained labels) (750ml)
One of the most surprising visits from our 2012 trip was at Caol Ila distillery on Islay. The Diageo plant is so big, so efficient, and so sterile that our appointment was more about professional growth and crossing another distillery off our list. We didn't expect to be wowed. For all of the criticism Caol Ila takes as being a whisky factory, the single malt made on site is damn good. Caol Ila uses big, fat-necked stills that produce a round and fruity spirit. That soft and supple character compliments the peat smoke of Islay malts perfectly. None of their whisky is aged on the island, so the brine and salt character attributed to Islay aging never really appears. What's frustrating for U.S. customers is that most of the expressions that showcase the depth and potential of the distillate don't make it across the water. The 18 year old we tasted on site was one of the best whiskies I had tasted all year, but since we can't buy casks directly from Diageo, we were going to have to look elsewhere for something similar. Last year's visit to Sovereign resulted in a 30 year old Caol Ila cask of supreme complexity, but we were so intrigued by the 18 year that we wanted something with less age and more fruit. Tasting the 15 year old cask on the mainland in Glasgow, we found what we were looking for. Soft, supple textures, youthful campfire smoke, brandied fruit on the palate, with vanilla accents that smooth out the finish. A tasty winner that we can't wait for you to try.