[Review] Caol Ila - 18 years old 43%

Back into full bottle reviews after a couple of samples, and what a bottle! Caol Ila 12 is the bottle which properly started me on my whisky journey and still one of my favourite today. But I have already reviewed Caol Ila 12 before so it is about time I upgrade and move on to Caol Ila 18!
I have always thought Caol Ila was the most underrated distillery on Islay, but I think things are changing and even if the distillery is the biggest producer on the island, demand (and prices) for older bottles of Caol Ila is soaring.
In my opinion, the single malt produced at Caol Ila is not as pungent as the one produced by the 3 peat power houses (Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Lagavulin). It is more nuanced being what I love to call a 'salty peat' Islay malt. So what about the 18?

Like with the 12, I guess the 18 is aged in ex-American oak. Unfortunately it is chillfiltered, coloured and bottled at 43%, so is the experience still here?

Nose: Sweet and smoky, some tropical fruit and peat, and salty sea air by a bonfire too. Some licorice and aniseed notes mixed with vanilla and fresh pineapple. It is quite creamy and mellow but wrapped in fresher and greener notes. The peat is very well integrated. I could get lost in there!

Palate: Toffee sweet first before some peat appears. Oily. There are some barley notes wrapped in ash with citrus hints all around. Some bitter notes, sea weed saltiness, green apples, peaches, some oak, olives and a hint of black pepper. Wow...

Finish: It is a wonderful mix of sweet and salty peat with licorice and aniseed notes. Some drying oak and ash too. A little smoked/cured meat in there as well.

With water: The nose is fresher and greener, a little more herbal. The palate is a bit thinner and spicier. It is still sweet first but becomes quickly spicier and more fiery. The finish is more barley sugar wrapped in ash and spices. I will probably refrain from adding water in the future.

Wow, what a dram! A bit more mellow and sweeter than its little brother, this is a fantastic Islay single malt. I now remember why last time I tried it I decided against buying a bottle thinking"for the price, I would drink way too much of this one!" I am very glad, however, to have purchased a bottle and trust me, it won't be the last. Next step, Caol Ila 25!


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