Some years ago Duncan Taylor really put their money on octave casks. Once a reference bottler in my book due to their 1970s Glen Grant, Port Ellen, Caperdonich and many other glorious bottlings, they suddenly seemed to have an empty cellar. They were forced to turn to much younger whisky and somehow octave casks seemed to be a solution for getting more flavour into them. A strategy that may not have worked entirely – I can’t say Duncan Taylor has been on my radar in the past eight years or so.
Anyway octave casks are often a nice option for retailers, as they have a small outturn that is easy to sell. Today’s Caol Ila 2007 was finished for nine months in an active sherry octave cask. It is exclusive to Wine4You in Belgium.
Caol Ila 13 yo 2007 (54,1%, Duncan Taylor ‘The Octave’ for Wine4You 2020, sherry octave finish #4028789, 104 btl.)
Nose: a classic maritime start, with hints of iodine, brine and seaweed. Then the rich, sweet sherry comes forward, with red berries and plummy notes. Toffee and dark honey. Whiffs of diesel on top. Light vanilla in the background, but otherwise no excessive woody notes. A highly forthcoming profile, so far so good.
Mouth: less sweet than expected. In fact there are caramel and chocolate notes at first, but also a nutty side and briney notes that take over quickly. Then smoked lemons and lemon peels, with dark ashes. Then back to toffee. There’s a slightly green, tangy woody touch (ginger with a sourness) but nothing the sherry and Islay character can’t take.
Finish: quite long, with more lemons and green woody notes. The salty side and cold ashes stay strong, alongside caramelized nuts.
You can argue Caol Ila doesn’t need octave casks to shine, and you’d be right. On the other hand this couples intense Islay character to a quick but reasonably integrated sherry influence. Still available from Wine4You.