Friday, 14 January 2011


I often get a bottle of single malt whisky for Christmas. Favouring the island single malts, I was really pleased this year to get one from Islay that I had not tried before – CAOL ILA.
The distinctive taste of Islay malts arises from a combination of local barley, fertile peat all across the island, and numerous soft-water streams (burns) that run down from this land to the coastal distilleries. Sea water is used for cooling. Caol Ila has been distilled at Port Askaig on the Sound of Islay (“Caol Ila” in Gaelic), on the island’s east coast, since 1846. The original owner Hector Henderson apparently bankrupted himself establishing the distillery in this remote spot, but it endured. It’s located in a hidden cove and is hard to find (visitors to distillery through bookings only).
Caol Ila does not have the full hefty peatiness of Islay malts such as Lagavulin or Laphroaig, but it still has that distinctive note of peat and a fresh “sea air” taste. It has a pale golden colour and is 43% proof, and is aged for 12 years (it says here on the label).
Caol Ila is a smooth pre-dinner dram, according to my whiskey guide (Wallace Milroy’s Malt Whiskey Almanac, Lochar Publishing) - that’s about right. Cheers!

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