The 12 year bottling of Caol Ila is one of those whiskies that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. In most people’s views it does not rank with the top players like Lagavulin, Ardbeg, and Laphroaig. Some even mistake it to be a highland whisky. I agree that it lacks the intensity and heavy smoke that characterize the more popular brands from the island. However Caol Ila 12yrs is a very accomplished whisky in its own way. While it defends the spirit of Islay with its mildly peaty notes it also delivers an amazingly high content of sweetness. Most discernible is the subtle notes of citrus fruits, dried apricots, and honey. In addition to balancing the peat in a very delicate fashion the sweetness is also accompanied by malt, spices and…..fresh dirt. This prevents Caol Ila from being too sweet and give a great depth to it. The only slightly negative I can come to think of is the finish. Even though it starts off with a nice touch of spicy malt it slowly turns into a very noticeable vegetal note of green beans.
VERDICT: One glass quickly became two and before I knew it I had had five drinks. This pretty much says it all. It is very approachable and you don’t really get tired of it. Well not after 5 glasses anyways. I like the way the peat is balanced with notes of dried fruit, something that makes this whisky a great beginner-Islay.