Friday, 9 January 2015

SMWS Caol Ila duo

Right then. I've been thoroughly enjoying a rather splendid Caol Ila from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society over the last few months. I've been rationing the 53.212 but thought it was about time to update the blog with this beauty. And, seeing as Mr Ben Cops from the excellent Ben's Whisky Blog had sent me a sample of a previous SMWS Caol Ila: the 53.210, it seemed like the perfect time to get some notes down. Off we go!

SMWS 53.212 Peat Smoke and Para Handy Puffers - 56.4%
A 22-year-old Caol Ila. 
Distilled: January 17, 1992 and one of 291 bottles. 
Cask: refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

On the nose, there's initially a huge blast of ash, but underneath that there's the beautiful scent of honey-glazed ham. Heavily salted smoky bacon crisps are also present. The refined peat is wonderfully sweet and helps to bring out a rich tobacco leaf note. This is ramped up considerably with the addition of a small drop of water and there's also crushed mint leaves and if you leave the whisky to settle for 15-20 minutes, a bag of salt and vinegar crisps rustles into view to join the snack party. A faint rubber note is also in the background but it's not unpleasant as it really is tucked away and doesn't overpower the malt - unlike that nasty Ardbog stuff.
    Take a sip and this Caol Ila has an incredibly sweet arrival which then turns to fresh burning embers and campfire smoke. The sweetness remains throughout and the peat gives it tremendous depth. Black liquorice laces are also in the mix along with black cherry cough sweets and fine sawdust.
    The finish is splendid, with tobacco leaf, sweet peat, a hint of spearmint, coffee beans, faint black pepper, cumin and undiluted blackcurrant cordial.

SMWS 53.210 Fantastic Stuff - 53.3%
A 24-year-old Caol Ila. 
Distilled: December 19, 1989 and one of 240 bottles. 
Cask: refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

Taking a sniff, the fist thing I got when sticking my beak in the Glencairn wasn't peat but pomegranate juice. Spend a few minutes with it and the peat becomes noticeable but it's not a phenolic blast - it's refined and restrained and gives dark depth to the dram. I also got an earthy farm note which I often find in Kilchomans but again, it's not in your face.
    Burning green twigs are also in the fire along with a delightful vanilla note along with a thick spoonful of banana and toffee yoghurt. The dram actually reminds me of a well matured Ardmore and I remember thinking the same during a blind tasting of another Caol Ila last year. Caught me completely off guard. A drop of water brings out dusty cinnamon and waves of vanilla. Lovely.
    On the palate, the whisky is refined and elegant, with a delightful brown sugar sweetness. Again, the peat is there but it plays around the edges and forces some wonderful dark fruit notes through such as ripe plums and blackberries. There's also charcoal, creamy vanilla, white pepper and dried tobacco leaf.
    The finish is sweet with slight wood and a kiss of vanilla, dark salted toffee, pipe smoke, blackcurrant notes and delightfully refined peat. Wonderful.

So there you have it - two absolute corkers from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It's safe to say I'll be buying more SMWS Caol Ila bottles in the future - in fact, I already have. I picked out a cheeky wee 14-year-old from this month's outturn. I just can't get enough of the stuff.

A huge thank you to Ben for the sample of the 53.210 and for giving me the opportunity to try it. It really was Fantastic - the label didn't lie!

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