A Tantalizing Single Malt at a Price You Won’t Believe
2010 Caol Ila 8 Year Old “Old Particular” KL Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($69.99)
This is simply the prettiest style of Caol Ila malt available. We’ve managed to secure a record number of Caol Ila casks this year and the pricing has been extraordinary across the board. Our favorite of the lineup (with perhaps the exception of the exquisite 34 Year Old bottling) is the 8 year from Old Particular. This cask is bold, yet nuanced. It’s fruity, malt forward, and has the perfect thick thread of peat smoke stitching the whole thing together. This single cask is the perfect showcase of Caol Ila’s gentler side. It’s not a bruiser, but an elegant, thoughtful expression of everything Islay has to offer. At the jaw-dropping price of $69.99, we don’t expect this to last much longer than it takes to pour a single drop into your glass.
Also available is the coveted 34 Year Old bottling—you don’t get many opportunities to own a malt like this one for under 1000 bucks, let alone for under 400! This is the once in a lifetime cask you hope it is. There are no regrets in socking a bottle of this away for a rainy day, only in knowing you didn’t get one while you still could.
We didn’t say no to a single Caol Ila cask this year. They’re too good and too reasonably priced. With the demand for Islay peat as high as it has ever been, the quality of these casks combined with sharp pricing was an absolute no brainer. This Old Particular bottling is charged from a refill hogshead and, as always, bottled with no coloring or chill filtration. The meaty quality that we see in this year’s Sovereign cask of Caol Ila is tamed here and while there is decidedly some richness of peat and decadent phenol components, this is really on the gentler side of Caol Ila. The fruit is more prominent than most of our other casks currently available. Tart cherries and blackberries mesh with salt and pepper and a bit of herbal spice. It’s wonderful at proof, but with a little water it just sings and sings. This is precisely the kind of bottle you don’t put down until it’s empty.
Will Blakely | KL Staff Member | Review Date: February 21, 2019
One of my favorite aspects of Caol Ila is how the smell evokes a sea breeze on a cloudy but eerily beautiful coastline. Moss, salty air and fragrant barley make for a friendly introduction to the dram. What follows is perfectly integrated smoke and raging spice. There’s a hint of bell pepper there, accompanied by smoked meat and sweet orchard fruit. With water, the softness of the grain really shines through, bringing ripe pear and golden apple. The finish is long and savory compounded by subtle cocoa and a tinge of pine. This barrel really shows what Caol Ila is all about.
Jeffrey Jones | KL Staff Member | Review Date: February 07, 2019
When I think of Caol Ila distillery it is as a single malt that is a little more subtle and delicate than some of its neighbors on Islay. This Old Particular that was distilled in 2010 is a good example. Without water, the nose is a mixture of fruity malt aromas with a hint of smoke and the mouth is in the same direction. With a touch of water, this single malt it becomes better with the flavors and aromas opening up, becoming more complex and enjoyable. Although there are smoky influences they do not dominate this whiskey but play a secondary role.
William Beare | KL Staff Member | Review Date: January 29, 2019
This Caol Ila bottling from Douglas Laing is a fun and refreshing change of pace from what I’ve come to expect from Caol Ila—namely, the monstrously peaty reputation that precedes it. The nose is full of savory vegetal characteristics that follow on to the palate—bell pepper, both green and yellow, spring to mind, along with some spicy sweet notes that remind me of a pepper jelly. Very light traces of pear and smoke mingle on the finish.
Neal Fischer | KL Staff Member | Review Date: January 29, 2019
There is not much peat or smoke on this bottling of Caol Ila – which is surprising, but it’s not a problem for me because it’s still a tasty dram. I’m getting a wisp of smoke, a little meat with candied jalapeno, berries, and a rich buttery character. The palate offers leather, iodine medicinality, and earth. These flavors transition into herbal tea with accents of rock candy, black licorice, and after-dinner mints. This is Caol Ila’s lighter side and it’s rather delightful.
No distillery is more representative of the state of the Scotch industry than this bewitching peater on the northern coast of Islay. The excellent shoreside stills have dutifully cranked out unbelievably delicious peated whisky since 1846, but it wasn’t until the malt floors were closed and the distillery began buying barley from the Port Ellen maltings that the current house style truly solidified. Caol Ila is known for their 12 Year Old in the US, but a huge majority of the spirit gets blended into the Johnnie Walker line. While the line has become slightly more available in the last few years, it still remains pretty elusive, especially in a significantly aged form. The last distillery on Islay where ultra-mature stocks are not in the $1,000 range, but they probably deserve to be. The spirit is impeccable and easily one of the most undervalued malts in Scotland. Oftentimes when we lament the loss of the old great peater Port Ellen, we’re reminded how lucky we are to have the beautiful beast that sits just north of Port Askaig. A 34 Year Old PE would easily cost you $1,500. Of course, whiskies of that age are always extremely rare, but this Caol Ila represents some of the most valuable stocks. The standard 30 Year Old, which is not available in the US, easily fetches over $500 in Europe. This single cask, nearly a half decade older than that, offers one of the best values for old Islay anywhere in the world. Absolutely no old peater offers as much luxury for your dollar.
Jeffrey Jones | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 14, 2018
This cask aged very well. The positive aspects of long aging are apparent. It is lively and delicious. The nose has aromas of salt and smoke that work well together. In the mouth it is soft and concentrated with a creamy mouthfeel. The smoke and salt and a sense of place come through. It is enjoyable without water but a splash of water opens this selection up.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 13, 2018
I literally said the words, “holy sh*t” under my breath when I first tasted this special cask. Now we’re no strangers to old Caol Ila —in fact we seek it out like blood hounds. Why? Because it’s one of the only old Islay heavy hitters that has been available at semi-reasonable prices. Well, at least up until now. All but this one very special source have dried up or are becoming so prohibitively expensive that they effectively don’t exist in our world. It’s true that last year we bottled a sister cask to this one and for $25, but this whisky is in a whole other league. That’s not to imply that last year’s special whisky was a slouch by any means and the appreciation this year is relatively minimal compared to other casks. Stocks similar to the ’83 Signatory 30 year we bottled 5 years ago (retail $300) would now retail for at least $1000. Old bottles from that same period are still selling around the world for around $700. If you’re lucky you might find the bottler’s current release in Europe for $500+ and if the distillery releases a 35 Year, it will command upwards of $1000 as well. But this whisky is more than just a good deal. It’s an absolute star. The first moment the whisky hits your glass you’re blasted with massive billowing smoke. As it aerates it begins to offer some more nuance—lemon skins scorched in a pile of burning spices, the embers of a fire on an Islay beach—the smells of the bay, dried seaweed, and fresh peat burning in homes over the hill. On the palate this thing just about cuts you in half. Sooty bold peat, oyster shell, brine, tangy lemon rind, ashen embers of expensive incense. The finish is long and lingering. Too long to calculate as it forces another sip. Normally I’d recommend avoiding water on something this old, but the beast can handle it. With just the tiniest drop of water, the whole package coalesces. Salted fruits, cured meats, smoked salty fish, high end nori, sweet Meyer lemon. On the palate the water actually brings the oily texture out, revealing an almost thick mouth feel that coats every taste bud and drowns it in sooty sea spray and sweet citrus. An absolute star that probably deserves to be much more expensive, but I hesitate to anoint it with the term “value.” Just too good to be ignored.
William Beare | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 11, 2018
Attention lovers of peat: line up and hold out your glasses! Drinking this beautifully aged Caol Ila is like stepping in to a meat smoker for a light nap. The age here is not so much adding the overt sweetness found in other well-matured peaters, but instead contributes a savory, meaty richness to the healthy dose of smoke you get right at the front of the palate. The salinity comes in similar barbeque fashion—like a salt-cured rack of pork ribs, lightly coated in a sweet and spicy honey glaze. In the typical lineup of Islay scotches, this Caol Ila stands out in a beacon of light. Fascinating, exotic, and deeply pleasing to drink.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 11, 2018
“Buried how long?” Almost 35 years. “You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?” “Long ago.” My personal tastes for whisky have changed dramatically over the years. I’ve at times found myself going gaga over loaded sherry bombs, exalting the finesse of delicate drams, and seeking out the peatiest of peatys. One thing that has been a constant over the last decade of my Scotch drinking life is my affection for well-aged smoke. As heavily peated spirits age the intensity of the smoke falls away into richness and body. It’s a particular and special characteristic that cannot be counterfeit or short cut. This specimen is a perfect example of why it is so compelling. I’m not saying this isn’t a smoky whisky, it certainly is. It’s just also so much more than that. The smoke has become a rich and oily slip’n’slide of flavor. There is a slight brine characteristic to it, not iodine, but a lighter kind of salinity. Sweet malt marries perfectly with a bit of tangy BBQ sauce. The freshness of fruit, once readily apparent in this whisky’s younger days has developed into a rich tapestry of salted and cured fruits. A refilled hogshead was undoubtedly the perfect vessel for this whisky, tame enough to stand up to many long seasons in the warehouse, and rich enough to make sure that this whiskey, after many long years in darkness would be “recalled to life.”
Jackson Lee | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 06, 2018
As a casual drinker of Caol Ila, I was very much looking forward to trying this dram and it didn’t disappoint. Classic Caol Ila honeyed smoke on the nose, much like a slow smoked honey ham, followed by a little peat, green apple, and sweet soy sauce at the end. The palate mirrored the smoked honey note I got on the nose but also included pencil shavings, charred strawberry, and a hint of brine. That brine became more noticeable throughout the finish, pairing with a sweet note that reminded me of salted caramel just not quite as…caramel-y; add wood and a nice fruity note and it’s a wrap!