Aged in used bourbon casks and finished in hand-selected Moscatel barrels, this single malt was awarded the title Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
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 (Caol Ila 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 still uses locally malted barley and pure spring water sourced from Loch Nam Ban (the water travels through limestone and peat before reaching the distillery), just as it did centuries ago.
Caol Ila 2012 Distiller's Edition Single Malt Whisky was originally distilled in 2000. Unlike other distilleries on Islay (particularly Lagavulin), Caol Ila distills the whisky in copper-pot stills that are less full in order to maximize contact between the copper and whisky. As a result of this process, Caol Ila Single Malt Whisky is less peaty and smoky than whisky from the other distilleries on Islay.
After distillation, Caol Ila 2012 Distiller's Edition Single Malt Whisky was aged for a decade in casks that were previously used to age bourbon. Following the decade-long slumber, the whisky was double-barreled, or finished, in hand-selected Moscatel barrels for an additional two years. Moscatel is a particularly aromatic varietal of wine, with high levels of sugar and intense notes of citrus. This finishing process adds hints of dried fruits and honey to the whisky, and tempers the notes of peaty smoke.
Caol Ila 2012 Distiller's Edition Single Malt Whisky earned a Double Gold Medal and the title Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
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86 (43% ABV)
Caol Ila Distillery
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Clear gold, with notes of sweet malt and honey that give way to bold flavors of smoke and dark fruit. Finish is dry, rounded and complex and gently fades to a touch of cinnamon spice.