So much whisky, so little time | Singapore | Tasting Notes

Caol Ila: G&M Reserve 1996/2009 13yo #16116 46%, 18yo Official ~2014, Perfect Dram 1995/2013 18yo 50.6%

Caol Ila is, simply put, under-appreciated. Peat heads see it as a gentle peater but it makes an excellent consistent malt that seems to do well at any age. Not that it’s ‘gentle’ by any yardstick – 35ppm! Get a powerful independent and it might be mistaken for an Ardbeg. And then there are the prices – which remain very reasonable. What’s not to like?




The entire length of the distillery lies against the sea. And the marketer might tell you that’s where the martime influence comes from: Long years of maturation by the sea. But Caol Ila newmake is immediately shipped off the island and matured on the mainland. The small warehouse is instead filled with Lagavulin. So where does the salt and seaweed come from? The answer is the peat.

The view from the stillhouse: The paps of Jura.


The real Caol Ila we know started production in 1974. The original two still  distillery was closed for rebuilding in 1972, so any Caol Ila from before that can be treated as a different distillery altogether. And why did they rebuild it? Because it’s lighter and medium peated malt is particularly suited to blending seems to be the accepted answer, it’s proximity to Port Askaig helps as well. But did you know a large portion of the Caol Ila that goes into Johnnie Walker is the unpeated style? Yes the ‘new’ Stichell’s reserve is not new at all.

Caol ila gm 16116

Caol Ila G&M Reserve 1996/2009 13yo #16116 46%
Nose  Nose: Clean and fresh, peaty salt spray, drop of medicine, topped with quinine. Some freshly pulled roots too. Young but perfectly porportioned.

Taste  Palate: Sweet and peaty. Certainly quite young, though the brightness is checked by the low abv. Peated malt bins, a touch of rawness. Salted sugar on seaweed. Simple, does the job!

Finish  Finish: Medium short, smoke and smouldering seaweed.


Clean with enough flavour lined up to get what you expect a Caol Ila to have, though hurt by the low abv. Feels ‘diluted’ at 46%.



Caol Ila 18 OB 43% ~2014

Nose  Nose: Immediately richer than the G&M though certainly not opulent. Definitely has some sherry casks in the vatting. Still quite peaty, though much less brash. The years has given it an elegance that plays well with the subtle dried fruit richness. Also one cannot get away from the maritime influence. Puffer smoke. Did I mention the peat in Caol Ila seems to me to be more aromatic and earthy than heavy?

Taste  Palate: An illusion of sweetness, but it’s really the dry richness from the sherry sitting on an elegant peat. Impressively complex for a core range 18 year old. Berry juice, elegant peat and seaweed salad with balsamico.

Finish  Finish: Somewhat short, some prune juice, smoke


Caol Ila in a richer, more elegant guise. Deceptively ‘lighter’ peat, but it’s not light at all. Points for complexity.



Caol Ila Perfect Dram 1995/2013 18yo 50.6%

Nose  Nose: Thick and rather closed, peat oil and herbal liquer. With water: A very dominant peat, with an earthy complexity and an array of herbal-fruit aromatics. Sharp clean and simple but hits the nail on the head.

Taste  Palate: Again unctuous, coffee granules With water: A grassy earthy deep peat, quite oily and ‘wide’ but not a heavy hitter. More earthy than the previous two by far. Not as rich as the 18 but the fatness of the spirit presents a weight on the tongue so it doesn’t seem any less rich.

Finish  Finish: Medium-short. Earthy. Fizzles out a bit.


This one is a big fat one that manages to be simple and straightforward at the same time. Peat, earthiness and herbaceous.


2 comments on “Caol Ila: G&M Reserve 1996/2009 13yo #16116 46%, 18yo Official ~2014, Perfect Dram 1995/2013 18yo 50.6%

  1. Carissa Hickling
    November 7, 2015

    I’m also a fan of Caol Ila. Absolutely loved the G&M 1997 – yum!

    • Whiskyrific
      November 8, 2015

      Caol Ila – almost always good and often excellent!

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