Caol Ila – 31yo 1984 Cadenhead’s London Exclusive 20th Anniversary
(Distilled 1984, bottled May 2015, first-fill bourbon, 168 bottles, 54.3%)
1984: O-Levels are scrapped, the Apple Mac is launched, Lichtenstein gives women the vote, and “Diggi-Loo, Diggi-Ley” wins the Eurovision Song Contest. Meanwhile, on Islay they’re filling a fresh bourbon cask with spirit from the Caol Ila stills. 31 years later we get to see if they were doing a good job.
Nose: A nice whiff of toasting corn tortillas with lime on first pouring, then sweetness: red liquorice strings, glacé cherries and over-ripe apples. Quite buttery. A hint of Humbrol model paint. Some oily peat lurks in the distance.
Taste: Sweet, juicy and very lively despite the age. Apple juice, peaches and various tropical fruits in syrup. Tutti-frutti.
Finish: Cinnamon chewing gum. Gentle and rounded peat and salt roll in, with a faint iodine twang. A hint of buttered kippers. Tropical fruits in the aftertaste.
Caol Ila is a whisky that – unlike some Islay malts – really thrives with age, and this is a fantastic example. It’s not the most complex whisky ever, but that scarcely matters when everything here so utterly enjoyable. It’s a big, bold (fat, even) whisky that still has a spring in its step. Distressingly easy to drink (the bottle has long gone…) and one of the best things to come out of 1984 or 2015.