The first thing that struck me was the colour: it’s a pale golden colour instead of the darker, redder hue of the previous releases. It also has a bigger yield (a sherry butt after all) compared to the others.
Caol Ila 7 yo 2012 (60%, Asta Morris 2020, sherry butt, ref. AM127, 524 btl.)
Nose: very ashy. An extinguished barbecue, old leathery notes and some walnut husks. Smoked fish. Hints of lemons in the background. Engine oils, hessian and old, wet ropes. All very nice and coastal, but not the sherry character of the previous editions. Maybe a different type of sherry, or simply the larger volume of the cask.
Mouth: oily and smoky. The sherry cask brought some sweetness, but it’s more of a toffee / caramel type and less fruity than we’d hoped. Bright lemons, plenty of cold ashes and soot, brine and iodine. The sherry is restrained but blends in nicely with the Islay character.
Finish: long, with pepper, smoked kippers, lemons and hessian.
It’s fat, ashy, coastal… simply really good. It just doesn’t deliver the same kind / amount of sherry character as the previous bottlings. Not that Caol Ila requires heavy sherry anyway. Around € 80, available in most Belgian and Dutch stores and from The Whisky Exchange for instance.
Why not put it against the previous release (last year) which hadn’t made it onto the blog so far?
Caol Ila 8 yo 2011 (55,1%, Asta Morris 2019, sherry cask, ref. AM058, 245 btl.)
Nose: this was definitely sweeter and more rounded, with prunes and raisins, adding a bit of fruitiness on top of the Lapsang tea and tarry notes. Chocolate and tobacco. This is the style of the first few editions. Having them side by side, I have a clear preference.
Mouth: dark and sweet fruits again. Blackberries, plums, mixing nicely with powerful peaty notes, coal ash and saline touches. Caramelized nuts. Also oranges and sour cherries, as well as a light vegetal and herbal edge. A more multifaceted whisky.
Finish: long, rich, on chocolate, herbs and leather.
I like this one better. The added fruity notes make it richer and simply more typically sherried.