Where’s the Peat??

Like the well known Wendy’s commercial “Where’s the Beef?” from the mid-80’s – I wondered about the missing ingredient for Caol Ila’s Unpeated Style release.  What would Caol Ila taste like without the peat and smoke?  Would it be a bad thing or would is support that Caol Ila is more than just peat?  This release is the 10 year old version from 2009 and is bottled at the upper reaches of the heat scale: 65.8% ABV.  ~$65

Color:  Light gold, tinge of yellow

Nose:  Asian pears, coastal saltiness, citrus, medicinal alcohol burn, some oak

Palate:  Big alcohol, honey sweetness, malty, for me it needs some water.  After some water:  much better, vanilla, lemon zest, creamy, spicy and prickly

Finish: Long with a zing of lemon and heat and some lingering spice

Comments:  A big change from what we are all used to from Caol Ila.  Overall it is very nice and a testament to Caol Ila by showing that their whisky is more than just peat and smoke.  It is almost like finding a new distillery.  This review is a little late in coming as there is now a 12 year old version. I can’t wait to give that a try and compare it to this release.

10 Comments

Filed under Caol Ila, Whisky Impressions

10 responses to “Where’s the Peat??

  1. nulty

    There is (was ?) also a 8yo Unpeated bottled at 64,2% that was quite exquisite.
    From what I can remember it needed water as well …

    I shall seek out samples of those 10 and 12yo versions.

    • Unfortunately they didn’t release the 8y/o in the US. I have seen it in Japan – but never tried it. Is it worth buying in your opinion?

      • nulty

        I’m not sure I can answer that.
        It was really good but as it wasn’t released in the US, it might be overpriced there (a friend bought it 40€ over here).

        The other thing to consider is “Is it worth buying when you’ve tried the 10yo already ?” That I’m sure I can’t answer.

        Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  2. Chris,

    i liked the 10 unpeated. was very surprised with it, but yes, definitely needs water.

  3. I agree that a distillery that has been known for one type of whisky appears as a second distillery when they start producing a very different style. That’s actually one reason I like Bruichladdich so much: There is no style expectation. I actually like variety, and I generally want to encourage producers to be creative to the extent they can do that profitably. I think Springbank is also in that category because Longrow and Hazelburn and Springbank are all made at the same distillery and they are very different, one to the others.

    I suppose that the other way to achieve variety in the marketplace for Scotch is for new distilleries to be created (Shetland: Blackwood, Lewis: Abhainn Dearg, Islay: Kilchoman, and you could even include Speyside: Roseisle, though that was just built to add volume…) and for new companies like Compass Box to redefine what kinds of whisky are produced and sold.

    • I like variety as well, but consistency I think is a requirement first. A solid core range and then some “different” expressions is what I appreciate. Independent bottlers also fill in for some added variety. But it is nice to be able to go back to the old standby OB releases once in awhile.

      Bruichladdich takes variety to a whole different level. I just can’t keep up with all of the expressions and have all but given up on trying to figure it all out – let alone taste them.

  4. I agree that I think that Bruichladdich may suffer from the excessive variety that they produce. But as Mark Reynier says, they own the stills and they’re not afraid to use them! 🙂 Within subsets, they do produce consistent styles (e.g., the Links series, the Bordeaux series, Port Charlotte, etc., but it’s a challenge for consumers to navigate their range).

    I can’t disagree with you that a distillery should not constantly experiment and should have several stable “product lines” that you can rely on.

    I have invented a whole new way for whisk(e)y consumers to navigate the thousands of expressions on the market. More news as events warrant. 🙂

  5. It’s a little difficult to imagine a Caol Ila without the peat! Especially since the 12yo is one of my favourites from Islay.

    When Ardbeg Blasda was first released, a guy in the local bottleshop was telling me it was fairly dull, like someone had totally ripped the guts out of an Ardbeg. Wasn’t sure what to believe until I finally tried it, and I wasn’t much of a fan.

    I’m keen to try this unpeated Caol Ila, but I’m hoping it’s a positive experience!

    • I was pretty hesitant too at first. But was happy with what I tasted. Think it is good – its just not what we think of when we think Caol Ila.

      BTW – great reading on your blog.

      • I’ll keep an eye out for it in the bars over here, and try to keep an open mind. 🙂

        Cheers! The blog is still very new and it’s still finding its legs (much like myself after a night out I guess). A couple of my tasting notes have been on Nonjatta, I’d like to submit more but it’s difficult to track down Japanese whisky here in Australia. Brian (dramtastic) from Queensland has managed to make some connections and get his hands on all sorts of wonderful stuff, he’s pretty much the Australian authority on Japanese whisky, IMO. 🙂

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