Caol Ila 12 Year Old (70cl, 43%)



Caol Ila is derived from Gaelic Caol Ìle for “Sound of Islay” (lit. “Islay Strait”) in reference to the distillery’s location overlooking the strait between Islay and Jura a spot originally chosen partly because of the clean water from Loch Nam Ban which still provides its main supply.

It was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson and is the largest of Islay’s eight distilleries with a capacity of three million litres a year .

At first the distillery did not fare well, and changed hands in 1854 when Norman Buchanan, owner of the Isle of Jura Distillery, took over. In 1863 the business was acquired by Bulloch Lade & Co, of Glasgow, traders in whisky stocks. By the 1880s over 147,000 gallons of whisky were produced there each year.

In 1920 Bulloch Lade went into voluntary liquidation, and a consortium of businessmen formed the Caol Ila Distillery Company Ltd. In 1927 the Distillers Company acquired a controlling interest in Caol Ila, and in 1930 Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd obtained ownership of all the shares. The distillery closed during World War II, from 1942 to 1945, because of wartime restrictions on the supply of barley to distillers. From then, production continued until 1972, when the entire structure of the distillery was demolished. A larger distillery was then built, designed by George Leslie Darge in the same architectural style as many of his others with his trademark glazed curtain walls to the still houses, and production resumed in 1974. The company eventually became part of Diageo.

Caol Ila is one of the lighter Islay whiskies, pale in colour, with peaty, floral and peppery notes. In addition to being sold as a single malt, it is used heavily (around 95% of their production) in blends such as Johnnie Walker and Black Bottle.


The whisky was poured in to a Glencairn glass, no water was added to this dram but it was left to develop for ten minutes. The colour was dark gold with a slightly oily look on rolling around the glass. A curtain is left on the side of the glass with medium length legs sliding down the inside of the glass.

The nose is fresh with with notes of mint and cut grass. This is followed by notes of sea salt and a smooth smokiness as you would find on a high quality smoked ham . As the nose develops the notes of smoke and cigar  come forward more intensely with hits of lemon grass and dark spices.

The taste is  very smooth and elegant , an oily feel on the palate with the smoke peodominant , but there is a freshness to the smoke. There is no overpowering feel as the smoke blends with notes of tar and hints of cloves and citrus. Perhaps hints of mint rock come through.

The finish is long with christmas spices going to cracked pepper followed by the fresh smoke. Very smooth

This is Caol Ila’s entry level single malt launched in June of 2002. Bearing that in mind it is an excellent extremely well balanced offering that manages to marry together freshness and smoke much more successfully than many of its competitors

Thanks to Kvarterskrog Florens for the whisky




Bulleit Rye (70cl, 45%)


Rye whiskey in my opinion is one of the most misunderstood drinks on the market today. A quick scan of the many reviews on the net reveals comments such as “a great mixer ” “rough” and “not for the fainted hearted” and “it makes a great “old fashioned.”   In the early days rye was the looked upon as something to warm you after a hard days work on the farm on a very cold day. A bit rough and uncultured. Thankfully this is changing and there are some really good ryes out there.

Tom Bulleit‘s “frontier” Bourbon has near-cult status among his admirers, and at long last the man has decided to branch out into a second product.

That product is Bulleit Rye, “the worst kept secret” in the whiskey world and a smashing way for Bulleit to double its shelf space.

The more well known sister whiskey Bulleit Bourbon has 28% rye in it already, making it the most rye-rich Bourbon on the market. Bulleit Rye has 95% rye (and 5% malted barley)  and it is made just across the Kentucky border at LDI (formerly Seagram’s) in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and aged for at least four years before being bottled by Bulleit at 90 proof . Produced in small batches it comes with an enviable pedigree winning a Double Gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013.


I poured the rye in to a Glencairn glass and left it to open for ten minutes, I added no water or ice. In colour the whiskey is caramel with a touch of orange when held to the light, on rolling around the glass it is a little syrupy leaving long legs on the glass.

The nose is surprisingly gentle for a whiskey with 95% rye content an a little caramel, cinnamon, and cloves accompanying the slightly briny rye

The taste is where the rye spice really appears. It may have been slightly muted on the nose, but on the palate it comes roaring out. Cinnamon, cloves, honey, a light peppery sensation and buttery toffee underpinned by smooth caramel. There is a hint of mint and sage before back to sweet caramel. Surprisingly complex and very easy to drink but still within the robust rye traditon of letting you know you are drinking whiskey!!!

The finish is long and dry with notes of caramel and vanilla very smooth with a soft note of cinnamon lingering long after drinking.

This whiskey is very good, it is surprisingly understated in the nose but complex and flavoursome on the palate. This is maybe not be a whiskey that would spring to mind to drink straight and many may will only ever encounter it as a mixer but it has beautiful flavours which challenge the senses making this a real sipping whiskey!

Thanks to Christian at John Scotts for the recommendation