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