Caol Ila SMWS 53.98

The third of the Anniversary bottlings…….

This is from a time when we were a very active member of the SMWS , Going to regular tastings , lots of visits to The Vaults , their bottle prices were very good value and they hadn’t gone stupid with bottling lots of sulphured whisky……. 53.98 is a 25yo distilled in January 1980 and bottled in December 2005 at 60.4% , it was given the label name “Peat , tar and liquorice” .

(Click on Photo to see Full size)

The colour of Polished Gold , The nose is quite closed to start with , then there’s a very strong hint of Toffee (!?!?) , The Caol ilaness finally starts coming through , the distinct peatiness . It’s when you get it in the mouth the full ‘Caol Ila’ finally emerges , it is a flavour you only get from this distillery , germolene antiseptic , coastal , iodine / seaweed . It all follows through onto a very long gorgeous finish . Another brilliant CI that doesn’t taste like it’s 60.4% , Superb , just the nose can let it down a bit……  

The 2015 Feis Ile Bottlings Tasting……

On Friday i attended a tasting of some of the 2015 Feis Ile bottlings hosted by Eddie Ludlow , I must admit i went in with a bit of trepidation having already tasted the “Ardbeg Day” Perpetuum and after having visited it several times growing to dislike it by every tasting…….



So what did we have ? Here it is Dram by Dram……. 

First up was the Caol Ila , from 1998 this one has been triple matured , first in American Hoggies then in Moscatel wine Casks and finally in Puncheon Casks , 1500 bottles at 57.3% . On the nose i got the Caol Ila Medicinal along with toffee and boat loads of wine . The palate was pretty much the same very sweet wine , the finish was quite long , sweet and malty . Have to say it isn’t one of my favourite Caol Ilas as wine casked malts are not exactly my thing , i much preferred last years offering , as i said in my tasting notes HERE “I prefer it when distilleries do this rather than mess about with fancy casks , back to basics ! ”  

Next was the Ardbeg Perpetuum “Distillery Only” version , this one was bottled at a higher strength , 49.2% , than the Ardbeg Day one . Now according to the Bumf this is supposed to represent the Past , Present and Future of Ardbeg…….. The initial nose was very closed to start with but when something did appear it wasn’t very Ardbeggie , not very peaty but had creamy coffee . The palate was very young , quite feinty with dry peat , all i can say about the finish is it’s long…… Again for something that is supposed to celebrate the 200th Birthday it is very disappointing , i think Ardbeg need to go back to the basics none of these poncy named versions made up of specially selected casks , how about a 10yo CS like the stunning Renaissance ? Could they not have hung on a little while to do a special 1998 resurrection of the 17yo ? With the last 4 releases by LVMH i’m starting to loose confidence in the distillery……. BTW as i write this i’m dramming the 47.4% version , it’s still not any better !

Salvation , sort of , came with the 3rd dram , Another 200th Anniversary one , the Laphroaig Cairdeas comes in at 51.2% , this one was made with malt entirely done on their own floor malting , distilled on only the small stills and laid to rest in the oldest warehouse ! The nose is a subtle iodine mixed in with farm yard and a touch of lemon . it is actually better with a drop of water , the palate has a nice peaty / iodine / maltiness to it , it is quite relaxed at first but if you hold in on the tongue for a while it explodes into life ! The finish is very long , farm yardie and malty . The best of the night so far , it is a stunning Laphroaig but i have to add with the stunning rise in quality of the recent 10yo CS batches and my personal favourite the 18yo , it doesn’t actually seem that special……

Number 4 is from Islays newest distillery , this bottling is for the 10th Anniversary of Kilchoman , bottled at 58.2% from casks from 2005 – 2012 and made up of 70% bourbon to 30% sherry . The nose starts of quite fruity then peaty then suffers from the one thing i find in all the Kilchomans i’ve tried , it smells young . The palate is feinty peat with a touch of sherry and the finish comes in long and feinty . This distillery release is still way too young for my liking .

Over the recent years the bottlings have become a bit of a cash cow in the festival and a few indy bottlers have recently jumped on the band waggon , this year it was the SMWS’s turn with the penultimate dram of the tasting . 3.243 ‘Dark , smouldering flamenco gypsy’ , a 17yo Bowmore from a sherry butt . After my last experiences as a SMWS members many moons ago i was expecting the worse when i saw it was a sherried dram , luckily it wasn’t the dreaded ‘S’ word ! The nose was your archetypal Christmas cake with peat and it was pretty much peated sherry on the palate with a good balance between spirit and cask . The finish was long , sherry with the Bowmore Parma Violets . Not a bad dram on the whole .

They say you always keep the best to last……. Well Eddie has , a 1991 Lagavulin at 59.9% , double matured for 24yo , first in American Hoggies then into PX casks (that seems familiar……) . The nose is very smooth , a touch of smoke with digestive biscuits and a smidge of farm yard , the palate has a  touch of sweetness with smoke and peat . The finish is quite long and very sweet . It is a very good Lagavulin !

So a bit of a mixed bunch , it’s now 6 years since we were last at the Feis Ile , we don’t miss it and we don’t miss the bottlings , the original concept of the Feis Ile bottling has been lost in the mists of time now especially as there is now a Whisky Auction van waiting on the isle to take your purchase away to make loads of money off it . If i’ve upset some of my distillery friends with my ramblings , sorry , don’t take it to heart , you have to take the rough with the smooth……  as we are increasingly !     

Toronto 2015 Visit – Part Two

Saturday 2nd May (Continued)

So onto the show….. Johanna asked us if we’d like to do another Masterclass at this years show , which we said yes to , and it was agreed we’d do a Caol Ila one . I’ve only ever done a Caol Ila Masterclass at the Feis Ile and i have to say it is , in my eyes , a very much under-rated Peated Islay Malt , It is also the most consistently good one !

(Click on Photos to see full size)

tasting photo

I decided to be sneaky as well and throw in a “Ringer” , i asked our good friend Francis if we could Acquire a sample of his yet to be released Daftmill , he agreed and back at the end of February we went up to see the Cuthberts and pick out a sample ( Dirty job , someone had to do it…..)  

Choices, Choices....

Choices, Choices….

Hmmm..... Which one ?

Hmmm….. Which one ?

I decided to be a bit sneaky and do the tasting blind , i asked them to try the first two together as they were both unpeated (not mentioning one of them wasn’t a Caol Ila ) , asked them their thoughts and then told them one wasn’t an Islay) and asked them to tell me which one wasn’t , Most of them got it wrong ! We then proceeded through the rest of the tasting only revealing what was what after they’d tried it . So the Tasting consisted of……..

1st Dram – Daftmill Cask No.21, Filled 3rd September 2007 ,Sample drawn 1st March 2015 , 59.6% from Fresh Bourbon Barrel (Heaven Hill) .

My Tasting Notes . Nose – Initially digestive biscuits then freshly cut meadows , hugely fresh , lots of butter ,  vanilla , touch of spices and custard . Very exquisite and complex nose , beautifully fresh . Palate – Shows it’s youthfulness at first but that soon vanishes , very fresh across the palate again buttery , sweet , vanilla , a delight to have in the mouth , oily and chewy . Finish – Long , sweet and butterscotch toffee .

It was a great pleasure to introduce this malt to a North American Public Tasting it certainly went down well !

2nd Dram – Stitchells Reserve , the 2013 special release from Caol Ila to celebrate Billys retirement .

3rd Dram –  53.52 , a 1993 7yo from the SMWS , a feisty young dram that has it all !

4th Dram – 53.93 , a 1980 25yo from the SMWS , this one showed that well aged Caol Ila can be exquisite but retain all the Distillery Characteristics .

5th Dram –  The killer dram of the class , i still don’t know how Johanna got a bottle of this but it went down very well , the 30yo Special Release from 2014 , all i can say is Wow ! that’s to the taste and not the price !

So after the class we retreated to the main hall to savour the 2015 Gala , Spirit of Toronto is one hell of a show , it has everything , great drams , great music , great food and fantastic people . I mainly concentrated on the Canadian Whisky , The Union Local 613 guys and Gals had a fantastic table of Canadians , got to try amongst others an Alberta Premium 30yo , the Highwood 25yo Calgary Stampede Centennial (again) and an absolutely amazing Wisers 18yo from yesteryear , Stunning ! It was great to actually try it up against the current Wisers 18yo at their table . Melanie took a shine to a few drams including the Nikka Taketsuru 12yo and the Chivas 18yo . We had a fantastic night , Johanna and Charles certainly know how to put on a show !

By the end the time difference was catching up with us and we took a lovely walk back to the hotel to catch some Z’s .

Sunday 3rd May

We decided we were going to be the Full Tourists today and do a bit of sightseeing , after breakfast i had a visit from Rob  (@WhiskyFan2112) for a bit of a natter about Rush , Toronto and Whisky ! He also very kindly left me a bottle of Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve, Very Much Appreciated Rob you are some guy ! Thanks also go to Rick (@rmculver) and Paul (@MarkhamWhisky) for their generosity , you guys spoiled us rotten ! Thanks!!!

We decided to visit the Islands as it was something we wanted to do last year but never got the time and boy did we pick a glorious day to do it on ! Red Hot !!! It’s a lovely little ferry ride over , you get some great views of the City Skyline and all for $7 return ! The island is really nice , well looked after with great beaches . We decided to take the Tourist Train tour around to see as much as possible .

Toronto View 2 Toronto View 1
Toronto View 3 Toronto Skyline 1
Melanie on Toronto Islands Avenue of the Island
Melanie on the Beach 1 Melanie on the Beach 2
Sign post Island-stitch
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse Ned Hanlan Tug
Central Island 1 CN Tower from Centre Island 1
CN Tower from Centre Island 2 Melanie on Central Island
Ferry at Centre Island Terminal Melanie on the Ferry

Toronto Skyline 2

We headed back to the Hotel via the Queens Quay LCBO (got to pick up supplies for home !) , freshened up and then hit Melanies Favourite Toronto Bar , The Library Bar in the Fairmont Royal York Hotel . It was a very relaxing night with some great drinks and a superb Lobster Linguine .  

Melanie at The Library Bar 1929 Beer

So it was off to bed for our final sleep in Toronto…..

Monday 4th May

Our last day and it’s a full one , the flight didn’t leave till 11.35pm ! We’d had a breakfast every morning this trip (it was in with the room) , Melanie took a liking to the Eggs Benedict , myself , for the last 3 days i’d been having the Full “Canadian” , there is just something so nice about Pancakes with Bacon smothered in Butter and Maple Syrup ! We left our bags at the hotel and went off for a wander to places new . First stop was Summerhill using the excellent TTC Subway , there were several reasons we headed here , Paul had told us it had some really nice Real Estate and a very nice LCBO which used to be a Railway station and was also Geddy Lees local one !

Summerhill LCBO

 It is a really nice LCBO retaining some of the original station features and it has possibly the best selection of all the LCBO’s we’d been in . Even though it was still hot we felt our first raindrops of the trip while out here . We headed back to the City Centre and transferred to “The Red Rocket” for a trip out to Neville Park (Route 501), we were going to look at the beaches but when we got to the Terminus it started raining so we got the same car back to the centre , there’s always the next time ! It’s a great way of seeing the city and well worth a ride out on one .

We decided to hit the Red Lobster again for a late lunch before winding our way back to the hotel via Tim Hortons and a few bars……


So it was a limo back to the airport and the flight back to Manchester with time for one last Ontario Wine and beer…….

Fish Eye

The flight did actually get back to Manchester early ! We also got a special mention on the flight announcement as the Flight Director was the same guy as our outward flight and recognised us ! I was slightly over our duty free allowance (3 bottles of whisky) and declared it , they actually let us off with the duty and tax for being so Honest ! Wasn’t expecting that in Manchester…..

Whisky Haul Wine Haul

The Spoils of the trip !

A big thank you to our Canadian Friends for making this trip so pleasurable !


The two Word Docs we handed out at the tasting can be read here……

Caol Ila tasting

Daftmill Info

And Melanies Camera Photos can be viewed HERE

My Photos can also be viewed on my Flickr Account HERE

Exclusive ! First Photo of 4/5ths of Caol Ila Tasting at The Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala

We’ve managed to get our hands on the first photo of 4/5ths of the Caol ila tasting at this years Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala (The other 1/5th is currently residing in Ontario ) .


As you can see there are going to be some great drams on offer , i’m sure Billy Stitchell would have been proud to offer such wonderful drams and Colin Dunn would have his Loudhailer out shouting from the roof tops ! We got a quote off Colin about this tasting….. “Gordon Who?” 

So looking forward to trying these drams !!!

The Sound of Islay……. A Caolilathon !

With the forthcoming Caol ila tasting at the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala looming large on the horizon , i decided to revisit my Caol ila bottlings to re-acquaint myself with the distillery , had more than i thought !

Caol Ila 12yo O.b. 43%

The Entry level dram from Diageo , this one is actually from a bottle from the mid-00’s , I was never a huge fan of this when it first appeared (in the ‘Hidden Gems’ Range ?) but it has grown on me recently .Quite medicinal on the nose at first with a strong citrus suggestion , Strong hint of malt and a nice little fruitiness to it . A very nice medicinalness to the palate along with a gentle smokiness , not over powering on the palate but the finish has a bit more of a kick to it , long and a lingering  peatiness to it .

Not a bad wee dram for the entry level ! 

Caol Ila 18yo O.b. 43%

The next level up from the 12 , this one again is from a mid-00’s bottling (the 20cl from The Classic Islay Collection ) , this one is more subdued on the nose , smoky and seashore like a recent bonfire on a beach , eventually the nose does open up a bit to reveal a slight dental surgery feel to it (Cloves?) . On the palate it has more of an iodine taste to it , very coastal , again a slight smokiness , the finish isn’t as long and is a bit more relaxed than the 12 .

The 12’s more elder and relaxed brother ?  

Caol Ila Cask Strength O.b. 55%

There are times when you just want your Caol ila’s just to hit you as if a big malt shovel has just smacked you across the face , Cue Malt Shovel ! After the 43%ers this was a blessing for any reputable peet-heed , ok it’s a NAS but WE DON’T CARE ! It smells young (see previous comment) , it smells peaty , it’s not complex , it actually has a fruity and peppery note . On the palate it’s Peaty , Smoky and peppery , what more can you ask for ? The finish is long and peaty .

It doesn’t stand on parade , it’s quite a rough Caol ila compared to the previous O.b.’s  but it is a wonderful dram and pleases this particular Islay Peat Freak !  

Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength O.b. 59.3%

This one is the next logical progression from the previous NAS Cask Strength , sort of turning the Amp up to 11 ! Bottled at ‘Natural Cask Strength’ (Still waiting for the ‘Un-Natural Cask Strength’ bottling…..) , there’s lots of lemon on the nose to start with , then the familiar ‘Seashore’ , peat and smoke . At first the palate seems remarkably relaxed but that doesn’t hang around , this is strong across the whole mouth , Iodine , peat , a bonfire in the gob ! The finish is long and warming , like a bonfire on an Islay beach when the nights are fair drawing  in……

Warms the cockles of your heart this dram , Nice !  

Caol Ila 25yo O.b. 1979 -2005 58.4%

If you are going to do a 25yo and charge a penny or two i always find it better to do it at CS than 43% , that’s what Caol Ila used to do….. I first tried a 25yo O.b. on a tasting during the Feis Ile with the legend that is Billy Stitchell , to say i was over the moon when he said it was CS was an under statement ! This is pretty pungent for it’s age on the nose and still makes the hairs tingle , it’s standing on the shore on the Sound of Islay with the strong currents wiping up the waves and  seaweed , it is actually quite sweet and buttery . The palate is really iodiney , a waft of smoke and incredibly chewy ! This is a big boys Caol Ila , Amazing ! The finish is long , iodine and really lemony , this is the closest you’ll get to a single cask bottling from the Owners taste wise , trust me i’ve had a few Single Cask 25yo Indys !

A pretty amazing dram just a shame Diageo thought it was a good idea to go back to 43% on the 25yo , D’OH !

Caol Ila Distillery Only O.b. 58.4% 

Another NAS (Woo-hoo !) bottled in 2007 , and even though it says ‘ Available only at the Distillery’ I bought this at the Bridgend Spar Shop ! (huh?) The nose is like standing beside a burnt out bonfire on the Big Strand , the ashes mixing in with the sea air and kelp from the nearby rocks , then the wind turns and you get the peat from the nearby beds . There is also a waft of peat smoke from the Maltings in Port Ellen . The palate is thick and peaty , there is lemon there as well and a nice sweetness , The finish brings back the smokiness and lingers for a very long time .

Another  Cracking Caol Ila that just proves this distillery provides quality as well as quantity , two things that rarely go together .

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2013 O.b.56.5%

Distilled in 1998 , this was triple matured in Refill Butts, Hogsheads and Barrels (not necessarily in that order….)  , Sweet peat on the nose followed by the smoke from dying embers there is a slight hint of them sherry butts but not much , another hint , this time of Apples and butter . The palate is slightly relaxed at first then a huge dollop of peat , again quite sweet but thoroughly enjoyable , the finish is long and peaty .

A very much under-rated Caol ila by others , really enjoyable !

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2014 O.b. 55.5%

Distilled in 2002 and from  ex-bourbon Hogsheads , this could be the 12yo on Steroids ! I prefer it when distilleries do this rather than mess about with fancy casks , back to basics ! On the Nose we’ve returned to the dental surgery , Cloves , then we’ve got the sweet peat , smoke …. aah that’s more like it ! there’s also pepper . The palate is also more of the traditional Caol Ila  , Sweet peat , medicinal , seashore , pepper and smoke . Lovely ! The finish is long , sweet peat , smoke , lemon and pepper .

If someone said what is the ‘Classic’ Caol Ila bottling i would say this , a belter put together by Mr Woods !   

Caol Ila 10yo “Unpeated Style” O.b. 65.8% 

The first time i ever saw mention of an Unpeated Caol ila was in 2002 when during a Feis Ile tour of the Port Ellen Maltings and when viewing the control panel for the malt bins it was noted that there was a one marked ‘Caol Ila Highland Style’ , the guide wouldn’t say what it was….. Apparently they’ve been doing this style since 1999, the first time i ever tried it was at the 2005 Feis Ile (Monday 30th May….) during Billy Stitchells Masterclass as a 4yo , i wasn’t impressed , by the malt not the Masterclass !  Bottled in 2009 at a humongous 65.8% , the nose is , at first , very unassuming , then it springs in to life , it is very fruity ! I would say tropical fruits , banana , pineapple , there’s also a hint of creamy coffee and lemon . The nose is just sniffable at full strength….. Wow , the palate is huge and strong at FS , again it incredibly fruity but it also has a very big hint of Lemon throat lozenges ! The finish is long , chewy and very warming . It’s not often i add water but i’ll try it with this one , it actually makes it more fruity on the nose and calms down the palate a little bit .

A cracking dram that definitely blows the cobwebs away ! 

Caol Ila 12yo “Unpeated Style” O.b. 57.6% 

Bottled in 2010 , this one again starts of quite fruity on the nose but then there is a mysterious waft of smoke ! It has a nice maltiness to it with a hint of lemon and digestive biscuits . On the palate it is deceptively peated , it is slightly medicinal , throat lozenges , pepper and that hint of peat , quite sweet but not the full Islay peat . The finish is long , sweet , fruity , citrus and spicy .

Another good Caol ila , more sensible than the previous 10yo , it keeps up the distilleries good record of quality spirit production .    

Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve “Unpeated Style” O.b. 59.6% 

The one thing i have noticed about all these unpeated Caol ila’s is how oily they are when poured , Bottled in 2013 this one is a NAS so going off it’s name it must be the best of the former vintages that were put aside by the former manager Billy . Once again it’s the Lemon that first grabs your attention on the nose , followed by digestive biscuits and malt , it actually has a hint of a lowlander , grassy meadows . On the palate is quite sweet and quite fruity , ooh Banoffee pie with custard ! Touch of spices as well , a lovely long fruity finish ensues with lots of spiciness and lemon .

Carries on the good work of the previous releases , quality product that probably isn’t appreciated by a lot of people !  

Caol ila ‘53.50’ SMWS 1993 7yo 62.1%

This was the Caol ila that ignited my love for this distillery , i’d only had a couple from the distillery by this time and the 15yo Flora and Fauna had done nothing for me , then in one of my first SMWS tastings i was given this…… Incredibly medicinal on the nose , the full germolene , bags of peat and a touch of malt . Not a lot else happening on the nose but it doesn’t need to . The palate is one enormous hit of wet Islay peat bog , there is also a touch of lemon and an incredible spiciness , a wonderful mouth of Islay malt whisky , if this doesn’t satisfy your average Islay Peat Freak nothing will ! The finish is not as long as expected after the palate but it is warming , medicinal and peaty .

This one still amazes me as much today as it did back in the early 00’s when i tried it , Wonderful stuff !

Caol ila ‘53.83’ SMWS 1993 11yo 61.4%

“Head-expanding in the Mouth”  , again the full medicinal (germolene) on the nose , a little bit more relaxed than the 53.50, just…. once again lemon and a hint of grass (meadows , not the smoking type!) , peat smoke and farm yard . Wow very strong on the palate , minty , medicinal , very sea shore , the finish is very long and peaty at FS , think i’ll try this one with water…. Water definitely cools it down , doesn’t bring out much more on the nose/taste front , after all we want the trade mark medicinal/peat/smoke/citrus of Caol ila don’t we ?

A cracking young Caol ila , shame the distillery doesn’t do a young 12yo at CS it would be a cracker ! ….And yes it does what it says on the bottle!

Gordon and MacPhail Cask Caol ila 1991 12yo 57.4%

Bit of a rarity this one , a Caol ila from Refill Sherry Butts (#13696 #13698) distilled 30/9/1991 bottled 2/3/2004 . This is a lovely amber colour in the glass , pure Christmas cake on the nose (cake dough , dried fruits , glace cherries ) along with a lovely medicinalness , a delight , there’s lemon and a beach bonfire wafting through there as well ! On the palate there’s a wonderful sherried peatiness only an Islay can provide , starts off peaty but progresses though to medicinal , this is class in the glass ! The finish is long with a lingering sherry , peat and bonfire smoke . 

As Mr Takei would say “Oh Myyy….” ! Bottles like this just reinforce a question i asked G&M a while ago , why release bottles at 40/43% in the Connoisseurs Choice range ? Enough said….. 

Caol ila ‘53.112’ SMWS 1991 15yo 54.8%

 “Sluggable-gluggable” , Quite a reduction in strength from the previous two , these three from the SMWS have been extremely pale in colour compared to the O.b.’s but the quality has been consistent . The nose is just as pungent , loads of smoke , wood spices , a quiet hint of lemon and peat . Not so medicinal . The palate is citrus , honey sweetness and peat , the finish has the Lemon throat lozenges and spices .

Still a good Caol ila but seems to lack the excitement of the previous two for some reason…. Less active cask ?  

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1991 15yo 58.8%

From Hogshead 3870 distilled 11th March 1991 , bottled July 19th 2006 , this one was bottled for the Forum at Bladnoch when Raymond was in residence and it will have been very reasonably priced . The nose is menthol cigarette smoke , mint ,  peat and the familiar Caol ila lemon , the nose is really relaxed after the SMWS offerings . The palate is more lively than the 53.112 , again we have the lemon throat lozenges (medicinal) , oak spices , a touch of peat and a chewy . The finish is long and spicy with a squeeze of lemon .

A highly drinkable Caol ila (aren’t they all?) that delights all the way through , Lovely !!!

Port Askaig 17yo 45.8%

Ok so it doesn’t say Caol ila on the label but we know different 😉 The nose screams Caol ila Medicinal ! It has the Lemon Citrus , slight sweetness , touch of smoke and peat but not much . The palate is very soft to start with , again the lemon stands out , touch of peat and smoke with a honey sweetness . The finish is medium with the old favourite of Lemon throat lozenges…..

Not quite the kick of some of the previous Caol ilas but this would be a great session malt !

Caol ila ‘53.64’ SMWS 1983 20yo 55.4%

“Smoky Boiled Sweets” quite sweet on the nose (icing sugar) , carbolic soap , smoking embers and quite maritimey , possibly the most laid back nose of the SMWS bottlings so far . The palate bites back with avengence , really peppery , loads of iodine and germolene , touch of lemon throat lozenges , The finish is long and iodine .

Not your average Caol ila , very relaxed on the nose , luckily the palate is another stunning one . 

Caol ila ‘53.84’ SMWS 1983 21yo 60.2%

“A peat cutters jacket” Straight away the germolene gets you on the nose , very medicinal , a little bit of fruit and i just caught a nice bit of chocolate and shortbread , yummy ! WOW , very farm yard , iodine , seashore and peat ! This could almost be a Laphroaig in disguise . The finish is long , peaty and iodine .

Found the price of this on one of my records , £50 ! An amazing dram with a slight twist ! We like slight twists ! 

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1983 25yo 53.2%

From Hogshead 4807 Distilled 12th October 1983 bottled 18th October 2008 , straight in to the fruit with this one , green apples , then highland toffee , takes a wee bit to settle then the smoke and iodine mix with the toffee , a very relaxed nose for the CI . Lots of oak spices on the palate , vanilla , then the toffee again with a nice peatiness and farm yard and iodine . The finish is long , sweet , iodine and cloves .

This one is is a gentle caress of the taste buds rather than a whack with a peat shovel , it’s actually a rather nice session dram !

OMC Caol ila 1979 25yo 50%

Distilled Feb 1979 bottled Sept 2004 from Cask DL Ref 1357 . This one is taking a little bit to open…. Once again we have green apples , oak spices , cloves , a slight waft of peat smoke and a toffee sweetness . The palate is uber relaxed , lemon , apples , toffee , lots of smoke and a hint of iodine , the finish is disappointingly short with lemon menthol .

A different one compared to the others but we are moving into the territory where a lot of peated drams loose the ‘kick’ after a long time maturing but gain a lot of elegance along the way (try a 10yo Ardbeg against  a 25yo+) . Still worthy !  

Caol ila ‘53.93’ SMWS 1980 25yo 55.4%

“Free Spirit” This one is remarkably chocolatey on the nose initially , then it progresses to Farm yard , iodine and seashore (though iodine and seashore could be the same thing , Seaweed on the seashore….) , can’t believe the chocolate , never got that before….. The palate confuses me more , farm yard again and nettles ! Only ever get nettles on Laphroaig ! Luckily we have the lemon , smoke and peat eventually along with a lovely medicinalness and a few spices . The finish is medium with a lovely lemon medicinal .

A lovely relaxed 25yo (as the best are….) , love the chocolate mixing in with the Islay spirit !  

Caol ila ‘53.96’ SMWS 1980 25yo 59.7%

“Heavenly and heart warming” It’s amazing what the difference a few percent makes in the strength of a whisky  , straight away you get the medicinal element on the nose , loads of iodine and germolene , again the farm yard , the lemon and the chocolate . The palate has a bit more of a kick to it than the 93 , the usual suspects pop in , Caol ila definitely has a uniqueness to it compared to the peaty giants of the South Shore and i , for one , are glad it does . The finish on this one is long , lemony , spicy and medicinal .

I can honestly say because of expressions like this (and most of the above ) that if Ardbeg wasn’t about , Caol Ila would probably be my favourite Peated Islay ! The quality is outstanding , keep it coming !!!

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1980 25yo 53.3% 

From Hogshead 4684 , Distilled 15th May 1980 bottled 1st June 2010 . Raymond actually bottled 3 casks from the same batch in a short period of time , i think i took this one to Toronto last year and it was received really well . Still quite pungent for a 30yo on the nose , incredibly smoky and medicinal , spicy and grassy ! Also a wee hint of Chocolate…. Very thick and oily on the palate , quite peaty for it’s age , medicinal and very spicy ! A touch of mint humbugs . Incredibly long , dry , spicy finish . Really , really , really long !

A fantastic dram given it’s age (could be woody!) that was really cheap ( £50 a bottle?) compared to the current 30yo offering from the owners .   

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1980 25yo 54.2% 

From Hogshead 4686 , Distilled 15th May 1980 bottled 15th May 2010 . Bottled nearly a week earlier than the above , this one is more medicinal on the nose , still has a hint of Chocolate , in fact more than a hint , chocolate digestives ! A bit of vanilla on this one , the nose is very sniffable , farm yard is there and a touch of smoke . The palate is a lot smoother and not as thick as 4684 , Really medicinal , farm yardie and nettles , lovely spices ! The finish is shorter than the 4684 but still long , medicinal and pepper .

Another cracking 30yo and Caol Ila !  Probably a bit more how you’d expect a 30yo to be , but it’s still lively !

Johanna asked me for a comment about Caol ila for the site publicity , the consistent quality first sprung to mind , as i said “How often do you find a bad Caol Ila?”  See above…..    


3 Tasty Samples

It’s not often i buy samples but i wanted to try a few so i purchased 3 off the Master of Malt site….. 


Douglas Laing Director’s Cut 1989 25yo Longmorn

Longmorn is my favourite Speysider , i’ve been keeping an eye out for a 25yo to add to my bundle of 25yo’s  i’m collecting for our 25th Wedding Anniversary in 2019 . From a refill Bourbon Hogshead distilled in April 1989 and Bottled in June 2014 at 54.2% , it is a pale straw colour in the glass . The nose is extremely fruity and fresh , almost the old Opal Fruits , very buttery and vanilla , quite spicy as well . A wonderful Nose ! The palate is peppery , also lots of oak spices , still lots of fruit but the spices dominate . The finish is quite long with a lovely pepperiness to it .

A Lovely Longmorn , good balance to it and a worthy addition to the “Silver 25” list !

Glenfarclas 25yo

I’ve always had a soft spot for Glenfarclas , it was the First Distlllery Melanie and myself ever did a tour in back in the 90’s , we’ve shared some great old Farclases from the SMWS so a 25yo wouldn’t go amiss on the “Silver 25” list . A very soft sherriness to the nose , the traditional Christmas Cake – cake dough , dried fruits , glace cherries – and a hint of Coffee . The Palate pretty much carries on from the nose with the addition of chocolate and Cola cube sweets , A very sweet medium finish to it .

A Lovely Glenfarclas , definitely a future one for the list…..

Caol Ila 1998 15yo Unpeated – 2014 Special Release

Coming in at a whopping 60.4% , i’ve been want to try this one for a while , i’ve had the 10yo , 12yo and Stitchells Reserve .

Pale Straw in colour , the initial nose is fresh green apples , VERY fresh green apples ! Touch of lemon and Malt . Wow ! This is an incredibly fruity little number after the Apple it bursts into a bulging bowl of fruit , Wonderful ! The fruit continues on the palate , excellent , highly drinkable at the full strength of 60.4% . Really Spicy as well , becomes very Apple Pie and Custard after a while , the spiciness continues into the finish . With a touch of water it certainly calms it down a touch but seems to take a bit of it’s bite away .

An excellent dram , the unpeated spirit seem to get better with age .

A purchase since……


The “Silver 25” List Currently stands at 9 Bottles……


  • Ardbeg Lord of the Isles
  • SMWS 1978 25yo Brora 61.20 (labelled 61.2)
  • Bunnahabhain 25yo O.b.
  • SMWS 1980 25yo Caol Ila 53.98
  • Bladnoch Forum 1984 25yo Caol Ila
  • Laphroaig 25yo O.b. 2013 Bottling
  • DL Directors Cut 1989 25yo Longmorn
  • Bladnoch Forum 25yo Port Ellen
  • The Wine Society 25yo Islay Single Malt

Spirit of Toronto 2015

Well no sooner did i seem to put up  the last post then Johanna updated the website with all the details of this years Whisky Gala……

Our Master Class is one of the 4 early ones at 5.30pm……. 

Islay’s Gentle Giant—$35
with Gordon and Melanie Homer

Spirit of Toronto welcomes the return of Gordon and Melanie Homer, self-confessed Islay-philes and unofficial ambassadors of Scotland’s whiskiest island. This is another heartfelt tasting borne of a passion for Scotland’s foremost whisky ‘terroir’, where Gordon has selected a range of bottlings from what he feels is the most under-rated distillery amongst “peatheads”, yet rightfully cherished among blenders for its consistent quality. To quote Gordon: “How often do you find a bad Caol Ila?”

Full details of all the Masterclasses are available HERE

Tickets go on sale next Monday (23rd) at 10am Local time direct from Roy Thomson Hall , details HERE

With the event just over 6 weeks away we can’t wait to return ! Read all about it at

Travelling Man (and Woman)…….

Yup , like the First Swallow of Summer , the first whisky festival has passed , once again we were there again behind the table representing our Good Friend Ashok and Amrut Distilleries ( a report can be read HERE ) . Our next one is another trip across the Pond to Canada to once again visit Johanna and Charles excellent Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala , this was just going to be a leisurely one this time but Johanna asked us if we would be interested in doing another Masterclass (evidently we must have done a decent job of it last time…..) and we couldn’t say no to such a Lovely Lady !

The other night Johanna let the cat out of the basket and announced on Twitter that we were doing another……


So it’s a Caol Ila one and as Johanna says Some Special Treats in store !

Keep an eye on for Ticket details , sure it’s the 23rd of March when they go on sale .

IWF2003 (3)

We’ve also got a few more Amrut events coming up over the next 7 months including a long awaited visit to the Distillery……

Details of the Amrut events are on the Amrut Blog 

An Old Style SMWS Tasting

Back in Ye Olde Days When i was a member of the SMWS , The days when the Malts were good value , usually unsulphured and Annabel Meikle (@thewhiskybelle) was pouring , the odd Friday night was spent in some lovely spot in Newcastle sampling 5 Cask Strength drams , there was usually a small feast of cheese and biccys at some point in the night . Let’s recreate them fine evenings with 5 old drams from the Society in it’s hey day……. without the cheese !

The evening usually started with a Classic , quite often a well aged Glenfarclas so lets go with 1.101 , a 25yo from May 1997 at 52.1% and labelled as ‘ Apricots and Thinners’ . A Lovely Golden Syrup colour , the nose is quite fruity with a touch of solvent in my eyes rather than thinners but not much , yup Apricot Jam , there’s also Battenburg Cake , ripe Bananas and Strawberry Jam . Getting Almonds so that’s maybe where the Battenburg came from and a bakewell tartish smell . The palate is quite feisty so maybe it was a not very active Bourbon Hoggie , again fruity with a smidge of Vanilla and opal fruits . The finish is medium , sweet and very chewy ! Not a bad way to start the evening…..

2nd dram is a one from the Good ol’ SMWSA , 37.33 , had to look this one up as i couldn’t remember what it is , a Cragganmore apparently, a 14yo from March 1993 at 60.9% .  It’s sherried….. a nice ruby red colour , lots of Christmas cake on the nose , cola cubes but none of the ‘S’ word , Woo-Hoo ! The palate is huge on the sherry , very dry (Oloroso?) and lots of the christmas cake again , the finish is deliciously long , ooh dark chocolate cherry liqueurs !  Wow ! Hang on….. all my old American friends always used to say they used t send the crap over to the states , Maybe my definition of crap is different to theirs ? A wonderful dram !

The Middle Dram ! 99.11 , a 29yo Glenugie at 43.4% , no year unfortunately as the society had changed the labels by this time and thought it would be better to put notes on rather than bottling details but it does say ‘monstera deliciosa’ , whatever that means……. Very pale for a 29yo , Ripe Straw , My nose doesn’t get any of the notes on the label tasting notes (nothing new there…..) , slight nail varnish remover , artificial fruit smells (like in sweets) , old library books and leather . The palate is very lemon flavoured throat sweets , that medicinal bitter type , not very pleasant to me , the finish is basically the same , not the best , i seem to remember this was a disappointment at the time of purchase but in a SMWS tasting you rarely got 5 drams you really liked…..

In all my SMWS tastings when i was a member i cannot remember there ever being a Grain on a tasting (i can remember there being a Brora !) , I’ve tried a few SMWS Grains and on the whole they’ve been good , my tasting notes for a SMWS North British made it into the Distillery internal Book released every 25 years courtesy of Mr Robin Laing )  . So the Penultimate dram of this tasting is a Cambus , G8.1 , 21yo at 61.2% ‘Light , Bright and Agreeable’ . Doesn’t smell 60%+ , digestive biscuits  , honey ,  fresh grain and vanilla . The palate is Highland Toffee (the one with the Coo on ) , honey and digestives , very sweet but thoroughly enjoyable ! The finish is long and sweet . A cracking dram , should have had more on the actual tastings…..

So to the final dram of the tasting , bit of a story to this one , this is from one of the first tastings i went to , it was served to me by the aforementioned Annabel in the Trinity House Museum and it was  the dram that started a love affair with the distillery , i’d only ever tried the Flora and Fauna 15yo and wasn’t impressed , so when i tried this one it was Wham , bam , thank you mam ! Also all the SMWS tastings traditionally finished with an Islay , for obvious reasons….. So onto 53.50 , a 7yo Caol Ila from October 1993 bottled at 62.1% . Very light Chardonnay Wine in colour , very powerful Medicinal initially on the nose , ok totally on the nose ! Antiseptic , eh….. Antiseptic , wonderful Antiseptic ! The palate is pretty much….. Medicinal , maybe a touch of seashore , seaweed , iodine but with a wonderful , long , warming , medicinal finish , actually got a waft of smoke right at the end . If you don’t like Islays this ain’t for you ! Still as wonderful as that first day !!!!!

Oh i do miss them days but as they say , all good things…… Made some good friends through the Society , Annabel , Stephen Marshall and Georgie Crawford to name a few but the Society was a different beast back then……  

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Food(and other stuff….)

Thursday 31st July 2014

We had a lovely Wedding Anniversary yesterday , apart from have a wonderful meal at The Bridgend Hotel we didn’t do a great deal , the meal consisted of (i know some of you like our food reports….. ) Islay Langoustine with freshly made Linguine with a Langoustine Bisque for Melanies starter , i went with an Islay Crab with ginger , avocado , confit tomato  with a Filo and Sesame Crisp . We both went for the same meal , Islay ribeye steak with bearnaise sauce , wilted spinach ,mushroom and handcut chips . And as if that wasn’t enough i was a pig and had a pudding of Chocolate Fondant , Whisky Poached pear and Clotted cream ice cream , All very ably served by the lovely Hannah ! Suitably stuffed we went home to lie down in a darkened room……  

(Click on photos to see full size)


Melanies Photo of the Crab starter

So back to Thursday…. We went off for a drive , Melanie wanted to look at Persabus Pottery so we headed that way . Seeing we were that end of the Isle , we went down to Caol Ila , where , after trying the Stitchells Reserve and Feis Ile 2014 i was easily swayed into buying a brace of each……. Seeing it was so nice we had a wander around Caol Ila , bumping into Lilys adorable little cat , the views around there are wonderful .

(No Swallows were harmed in the taking of these photos….)

2014_07_31_01Lilys House 2014_07_31_02Caol Ila Distillery
2014_07_31_03Up The Sound 2014_07_31_04Lilys Cat
2014_07_31_05The Harbour 2014_07_31_06Boom !
2014_07_31_07Jura Ferry 2014_07_31_08Finlaggan Arriving
2014_07_31_09Getting Closer 2014_07_31_10Steady !


A content Melanie !


We then went off to Port Askaig where we sat outside the Hotel with a drink and again admired the view ! Then it started to rain so we headed back to the Cottage via The Celtic House Coffee Shop taking in the Mulindry Road on the way to get ready for tonights main event , our Annual Meal with Ella and Mary at The Bridgend Hotel ! (Sometimes when something is so good…..) Mary picked us up on the way through and we met up with Ella at the Hotel . We made things easy for the waitress tonight , we split into two camps , Melanie and myself went for the same starters / mains , Mary and Ella went for the same starters / mains ! We went for the Crab starter from last night and had the main of Islay Estate Roe Deer fillet , Cabbage and Sage, Cauliflower Puree and mash and a game Jus , Ella and Mary went for the Feta and tomato salad for starters and for their main they went for the Simply Salmon fillet with New Pots and a medley of vegetables . Tonight it wasn’t just me who was a piggy , every one went for a Pudding ! Ella and myself had the Strawberries , homemade meringue  and ice cream . Melanie and Mary went for the Pain Perdu  , caramalised oranges and a orange and white chocolate sorbet with a white chocolate sauce (we can’t think of it’s name….) .

We had a great night with our Islay friends , great food , great craic and as always a good laugh !