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New Whiskies

Batch 210

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Caol Ila 8 Years Old (Adelphi); Caol Ila 9 Years Old, Small Batch (James Eadie); Caol Ila 9 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland); Caol Ila 10 Years Old (Thompson Brothers); Cl12, Elements of Islay (Elixir Distillers); Peat Chimney, Batch Strength, Batch 2 (Wemyss Malts)

In this week’s whisky reviews Dave Broom samples a concatenation of Caol Ilas (and one cousin), all of which are relatively young in age; but the measurement of time is only one aspect of a whisky’s character. It’s all about the cask and the interaction.

And boy, are there different facets of that happening here. It’s only by doing a tasting like this that you begin to see how a distillery’s character at a similar point in time can then be warped and twisted into different shapes by the cask. All of these whiskies are marked within their competitive set. 

It’s ‘bonkers’ from the off with Adelphi’s eight-year-old Caol Ila bottling. Layers of Sherried sweetness, barbecued meats, peppers and smoke integrate with a bitter finish – unexpected character from such a young whisky.

A nine-year-old Caol Ila from James Eadie brings a blast of the Islay distillery’s smoke and signature coastal elements, alongside mint and pear fruit qualities in this well-rounded dram.

Another nine-year-old Caol Ila bottling, this time from Single Malts of Scotland, contains maritime notes, ‘punchy’ phenolics and a smoked fish quality to create a whisky Broom calls ‘the complete package’.

Indie bottler Thompson Brothers brings a ‘tidal’ 10-year-old Caol Ila to the proceedings, with each wave bringing a varied element of shellfish, herbs and smoke.

Elixir Distillers’ Elements of Islay brand shakes things up with its Cl12 Caol Ila bottling. ‘Pungent’ notes of rubber and cabbage water are somewhat improved with water – but not enough for it to win favour with Broom.

The final whisky of the week, Peat Chimney by Wemyss Malts, is a blended malt that flicks between nutty sweetness, heat and smoke.

The playlist travels along the coast, dipping into a storm conjured by Ketil Bjørnstad and Terje Rypdal, drifting with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, word-weaving by Kate Bush and audiobooks, before Robert Wyatt takes us off into the ocean.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Caol Ila 8 Years Old (Adelphi)

    Score

    90

    Caol Ila 8 Years Old (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Huh? Eight years old and already the colour of a Brexit voter relaxing in his Spanish second home. Smoked and slightly burnt (the whisky that is; then again…), there is the scent of soy sauce on barbecued pork, grilled peppers, then on to rowan berry reduction, pomegranate molasses and geranium. Sweet, smoky and Sherried, which also means that dilution closes it down, but brings out more fireplace smokiness, some chorizo and more roasted characters. Fascinating and bizarre.

    Palate

    Heavy and oily with the distinct taste of sweet (Old East India) Sherry, then the smoke comes in, adding a new layer to the honey-and-pepper cashew effect. Water actually pulls out some sweet fruits and raisin, and once again the sticky glaze on the smoked meat.

    Finish

    Rich and smoked, with a hint of bitterness at the end.

    Conclusion

    It’s utterly bonkers, but somehow there’s still distillery character in there. Grab one, or find a bar with a bottle (Inverness’ Malt Rooms has one).

    Right place, right time

    The storm builds in its fury on The Sea.

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    Caol Ila 9 Years Old (James Eadie Small Batch)

    Score

    87

    Caol Ila 9 Years Old (James Eadie Small Batch)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Back to slightly more orthodox ways. A pale straw colour with that distinctive mixture of mineral salts, mezcal’s green vegetable elements, sea-washed pebbles and wreaths of smoke, which you expect from Caol Ila at this stage. There’s also some fresh mint alongside some salami, fennel seed and black pepper. Water makes it leaner, saltier, with the smoke now in the background, while the mintiness is retained.

    Palate

    Immediately smoky, and then the oils work alongside light creaminess on the centre, which then opens into a lovely, balancing almond oil-accented sweetness. Becomes increasingly rounded without losing any of its youthful energy. Unlike many of a similar age, there’s more to this than just a blast of smoke. That sweet, weighty mid-palate adds another dimension. Water brings in pear, agave, pepper and more beach bonfire.

    Finish

    Smoked oysters.

    Conclusion

    Sailing in high winds on a bumpy sea in the sunshine.

    Right place, right time

    Comfortable on the waves, My Home is the Sea.

    Caol Ila 9 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)

    Score

    90

    Caol Ila 9 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    There’s more interaction with the oak here, which appears to have boosted the phenols into dried kelp/nori, some sesame, then hot crab/scallop shells on a barbecue. There’s still a distinctly maritime air, but now the fruits are also showing: pear and banana skin, then a grassy, dill-like herbal note. With water things become oilier and also more saline, alongside kippers, lardo and punchy phenolics.

    Palate

    A sweet, almost nutty start gives way to coconut milk, then mussels smoked over juniper and fir. As it unfolds itself, you begin to notice the weight and soft roundness of the centre, which is also filled with slippery squiddy things and gravlax. The smoke is now thrust forward like a reluctant child at a school concert. Water brings with it an increase in acidity and saltiness, which in turn is balanced by that oily, smoked fish quality. Expands into a mix of ashes, fragrant smoke, verbena, brine and tomatillo.

    Finish

    Sweet nut, smoke and grassiness.

    Conclusion

    A complete package. Remarkable for its age.

    Right place, right time

    A Sea of Vapours.

    Caol Ila 10 Years Old (Thompson Brothers)

    Score

    85

    Caol Ila 10 Years Old (Thompson Brothers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Back to the lower oak style. Pan drops, espadin [mezcal agave variety], green tomato, oyster brine and more saline than smoky. There’s also a slight prickle of celery salt, wasabi, green salad leaves, macadamia. Water makes things stonier.

    Palate

    This comes as a surprising contrast to that fairly flinty nose. It’s gentle, sweet and a little estery. The seashore element is now winkles and clams, then comes a fragrant herbal quality, while the salinity is now like tyrosine crystals in Parmesan. Water initially makes it sweeter and almost well-mannered – there’s some smoked pineapple – then the smoke comes back, cooling. It’s oddly tidal, the impact of the smoke; it recedes and sweetens before the waves come back to hit the rocks.

    Finish

    Flash-fried scallops.

    Conclusion

    Things are still bunched up, but it’s balanced and would make a killer Highball.

    Right place, right time

    Playing with Pebbles on the Beach.

    Cl12, Elements of Islay (Elixir Distillers)

    Score

    79

    Cl12, Elements of Islay (Elixir Distillers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    In compete contrast to the others, this is all funked up. Rubbery, with whiffs of cabbage water and smoke hitting first. Some of the more, er, pungent elements do flash off, leaving rendering pork fat, tatami/reed, that menthol thing seen earlier, sorrel and (very) old discarded crab shells drying on the harbour wall. Water reveals an angular quality and a boggy, slightly grubby element, bordering on feints.

    Palate

    Prickly, almost heathery smoke dominates, then comes the rubbery note, which is unusual for Caol Ila. Water does improve things a little: some mirin/sake, green vegetables and then we dive into the smoke again.

    Finish

    Oily and smoky.

    Conclusion

    Let’s move on…

    Right place, right time

    A cold wind off the sea. Fog Rolling In.

    Peat Chimney Batch Strength, Batch 2 (Wemyss Malts)

    Score

    84

    Peat Chimney Batch Strength, Batch 2 (Wemyss Malts)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A mellow and subtly smoky mix of grassiness, with some melon and cucumber, then spikes of bacon fat and creosoted garden twine. There seems to be a hint of dried fruit in here, while the smoke – on the phenolic rather than woodsmoke side – is integrated. Water adds a nutty element and smoked cream.

    Palate

    It’s that nuttiness which kicks things off here: sweet, malty, porridge-like, with a mixture of smoke and honey. There’s some ripe and cooked apple before you get a hit of dried chillies dry roasting on a hot plate. The smoke by now is all-enveloping. Water makes it sweeter, with hints of peanut, then the smoke (there’s a tiny rubbery thing in there). It flicks between the two extremes.

    Finish

    Hot and smoky.

    Conclusion

    Well-constructed. Perky and handy for mixed drinks.

    Right place, right time

    The seal sings the final Sea Song.

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