Single malt whisky - tasting notes

29 May 2012

Caol Ila 15yo Manager’s Dram

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in Caol Ila

Whisky club Fulldram had its annual Supertasting yesterday, the last tasting of the dramming season. You’ll understand that the overall quality was very high (again) when I tell you a Bowmore 1968 ended up in fourth position (out of six drams) in the voting at the end of the evening…

The winner was an ex-aequo of the BenRiach 1975 for Asta Morris and a Clynelish 1974 bottled by The Whisky Fair which we’ll review later on. More surprisingly, one of the possible highlights of the evening turned out to be a letdown for most of the audience: this Caol Ila 15 years old ‘Manager’s Dram’, said to be one of the best Caol Ila ever.

The Manager’s Dram series was bottled for staff members of the distilleries owned by Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd., but it came to an end when it turned out a lot of employees were selling their rare bottle to gain some extra income.

The big question of the evening seemed to be: is it sulphured? I didn’t notice this at first, but indeed, in this particular line-up, when nosed right after some of the other (mostly very fruity) drams, there were quite some sulphury notes. Even though they didn’t bother me personally, a lot of people found it too dirty to give high marks. An example of how a line-up can make or break a particular whisky?


Caol Ila 15yo Manager's DramCaol Ila 15 yo ‘Manager’s Dram’
(63%, OB 1990, sherry cask,
for the S.M.D. staff association)

Nose: punchy. Definitely quite meaty with some (in my opinion clean) matchstick notes, let’s keep it at that. For me it’s not an off-note in this case. Lots of charcoal ashes and pipe tobacco. Cigar leaves and leather. Sweet peat, coated by caramel and brown rock sugar. Fruit cake. Not immensely wide but a perfect marriage of peat and sherry. Mouth: strong and “reduced” on chocolate, balsamic syrup, dried prunes and forest fruit jam. Cinnamon and pepper. Then quickly drying on liquorice and Lapsang tea. Hints of salt (cured ham and seaweed). Finish: very long, flinty and ashy with lingering sherry.

Excellent peat / sherry combo, but not the superb highlight we were expecting. I can imagine though that on a winter’s day, with a different line-up, this could sparkle more. Its profile reminded of some of the best Karuizawa expressions, as well as of the Bowmore 1995 SMOS. Around € 1000 in auctions.

Score: 92/100

Caol Ila 15yo Manager’s Dram 4.5 Ruben Luyten 2012-05-29
  • Peter Krause

    Hi Ruben,

    I wasn’t disappointed when I had it, I score it around 93/94 – it is just that the Serge/Olivier grade, the price and the rumors around it lift up expectations to regions where it can only disappoint. Personally, I think it is not flawed, more out of the ordinary.

    And line-ups do matter, you are right, that is why head to head makes the most sense when it comes to scoring. Many stories could I share in this realm how great drams didn’t shine in a certain position. But what can you do in a tasting…it still should be fun.

    BTW: could we exchange links as we do the same thing (


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November 2015
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Coming up

  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Lagavulin Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1933 notes by Ruben

WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.