This independent release from W.M. Cadenhead captures the essence of Caol Ila and the region of Islay, and is bottled at a punchy 117.6 proof.
The southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Scottish Isles, the island of Islay (pronounced EYE-lah) is just 240 square miles and home to only 3,457 people. Still, the island is one of just five distilling regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law.
Islay's unique climate and geography impart signature characteristics to Scotch distilled and matured on the island. Despite its small size, the island boasts 130 miles of coastline, and the warm Gulf Stream from the Atlantic Ocean provides for cool winters and mild summers. In addition, the island is largely composed of peat, a phenolic compound that emits smoky aromas when burned. The salty winds and peat bogs of Islay result in Scotch that has a signature salinity and is balanced by a touch of smoke.
Nestled in a hidden cove near Port Askaig, Caol Ila Distillery (pronounced "Cull Eela,") was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson. It borrows its name (which means "The Sound of Islay"in ancient Gaelic) from the sea sweeping past its dramatic and almost hidden location — it is situated between a steep cliff and the eastern shores of the Sound of Islay. For over a century, small coal-fired boats known as puffers navigated the Sound and brought barley, coal and casks to the distillery. Although the puffers no longer exist, Caol Ila continues to distill whisky using locally malted barley, along with pure spring water sourced from Loch Nam Ban (the water travels through limestone and peat before reaching the distillery).
Once the barley has been malted and fermented, it is distilled through Caol Ila's copper-pot stills. "The stills were designed to replicate the original stills installed in the 19th century," says Billy Stitchell, the Distillery Manager (Stitchell began working at the distillery in 1974, and is the fourth generation of his family to be employed at the distillery — his father, both grandfathers and one great-grandfather all worked at Caol Ila). Unlike other distilleries on Islay (particularly Lagavulin), Caol Ila distills the wash in copper-pot stills that are less full in order to maximize copper contact. As a result, the whisky is less peaty and smoky than traditional Islay whiskies.
Caol Ila 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Cadenhead Bottling) was distilled on Islay in and matured for 10 years in oak casks before being bottled at a punchy 117.6 proof. As a result, the whisky has an aroma of peat smoke, marshlands and semi-sweet taffy. The aroma gives way to notes oak, oolong tea, ocean breeze and mint on the palate, and leads to a finish accented by hints of pistachios and rich vanilla.
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117.6 (58.8% ABV)
Caol Ila Distillery
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Aroma of peat smoke, marshlands and semi-sweet taffy. The aroma gives way to notes oak, oolong tea, ocean breeze and mint on the palate, and leads to a finish accented by hints of pistachios and rich vanilla.