Less than 10 years ago I picked up Caol Ila 1990 for under € 100. Now Diageo considers it a Cask of Distinction, pretty much the most premium cask you can get from them. Of course a 1990 whisky is now over 30 years old, but it is a shocking observation nonetheless.
In our glass today is the Caol Ila 1990 selected by the Wu Dram Clan, Bram and Floris (WhiskyNerds) and Pierrick Guillaume, former distillery manager of Caol Ila. They’re good friends and they had the opportunity to try different cask samples during a joint visit to Scotland in 2021. The cask of choice was the refill American oak hogshead #6223.
Caol Ila 32 yo 1990 (51,5%, OB ‘Casks of Distinction’ for Wu Dram Clan, Bram, Floris & Pierrick 2022, refill American oak hogshead #6223, 181 btl.)
Nose: as expected, perfectly elegant. There’s a nice minty / pine freshness, mineral notes, medicinal ointments and hints of camphor. Soft, creamy vanilla, lemons and peaches as well. Some leathery notes and dried herbs. Gorse. Cold wood smoke in the background.
Mouth: definitely more intense now, with a nice oiliness. It starts with plenty of coastal notes (iodine, smoked oysters, brine) and a hint of petrol). Then some green, peppery notes and crushed sea salt. A good dose of smoky notes in the back. Mid-palate a burst of fruits comes out, mainly grapefruit and lime notes, but also creamier and sweeter fruits like apples. Overall very clean, with a nice balance of tart and mineral notes.
Finish: long, tighter, with the smoke coming forward, alongside coastal salinity and lingering fruity notes.
It is striking how close old Caol Ila and old Port Ellen can be at high age. This certainly reaches the same heights, with a lovely combination of coastal intensity and sophistication. Beautiful whisky – I hesitated between 91 and 92. Priced around € 2000, you’ll find further information on the Wu Dram Clan website.