We dive into the past with a Caol Ila 1974 bottled by Signatory Vintage in the early 1990s. They released a lot of similar casks – in fact I already reviewed a sister cask, Caol Ila 1974 Dun Eideann (a sub-brand of Signatory Vintage) but that was bottled at a modest 43% and this comes at a much higher strength.
In 1974 Caol Ila had just reopened after a two year period of construction works (introducing the typical glazed curtain walls). At the same time it extended from two to six stills. Moments like this often lead to a change of parameters and interesting whisky.
Caol Ila 18 yo 1974 (61,1%, Signatory Vintage 1992, oak cask #12452, 1200 btl.)
Nose: lots of walnuts and mentholated notes, tarry ropes and medicinal sharpness. Some petrichor and lemongrass. Then a classic lemon & salt combo, as well as rubbed orange skin. The sharper side is slightly reminiscent of vinegar at times – not unpleasant in this context. Hints of fints and sooty smoke in the background.
Mouth: very intense, with a firm salty side. Superbly coastal. Then dried herbs, smoked heather, raw peat and more tarry ropes. Salted lemon juice and seashells. There’s a slightly warmer hint of apple in the background, which is quickly overtaken by iodine and medicinal embrocation. Pepper. Later also hints of limoncello and gherkins – I’m sure there’s a recipe for a cocktail in this combination. Overall it’s quite immense!
Finish: very long, salty, with sweet lemons, leathery notes and hints of tarry oil. Eucalyptus in the aftertaste.
Huge power and complexity, with a sharpness that borders on Port Ellen single malt. In short, impressive whisky from an interesting period. Auction material of course – many thanks for the sample, Angus!