Caol Ila 12 year old

Meaning "Sound of Islay" in Gaelic, Caol Ila (pronounced Cull-Eela) was founded near Port Askaig on Islay in 1846 and has grown to become the largest distillery on the island. Owned by Diageo, most of Caol Ila's annual production of nearly 4 million litres is used for blending with very little kept for maturation as single malt. While Caol Ila single malt is often peated like its Islay neighbours, it is known and appreciated for its balance and lighter style. 

Having sampled a few independent bottlings of Caol Ila along with the Distiller's Edition and found them quite approachable and enjoyable; I had yet to try the 12 year old 43% ABV distillery bottling. As luck would have it, I happened upon a 1L bottle at the Duty-Free shop at Pearson International Airport and finally I got the chance to try the original.

Nose: Straight away, a whiff of poolside chlorine that quickly sweetens to a more herbacious, almost minty, medicinal aroma. Bursts of citrus atop a sort of doughy breadiness flecked with buttery vanilla notes provide are intertwined with damp leaves and a thread of smoke. Let it breathe for a few minutes to reveal floral tones and a gentle brine
Palate: Sweet and buttery upfront with big vanilla and dashes of white pepper that rush out of the way of a mouth-coating plume of rubbery smoke. Wow! Where did that smoke come from!? After the surprise wears off; this oily and medium-bodied dram displays flavours of salted, honey-roasted nuts and orange marmalade fruitiness alongside well-integrated peat and smoke.

Finish: Astoundingly long with chewy thick smoke and tar alongside the taste of char on hot-smoked pork. Look for the smokey flavour replay on the exhale too! 

Overall: A true sippin' whisky, the nose has a wonderful complexity to it and the finish hangs around well past the 5 minute mark. Fans of the Islay style will enjoy the smoke surprise on the palate. Those still learning and trying to discover their appreciation of Islay malts might enjoy the dram with a generous splash of water to soften the smoke and sweeten the finish. With less than 100 bottles left in the province and priced at $79.95 in the LCBO, this batch is bound to sell out fast.

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