This month we are stoked to be featuring a truly limited whisky. How limited? Bloody limited! – in fact only 312 bottles have been produced. How stoked are we? – well so stoked we’re not going to beat around the bush any longer. Please all, make way for a Caol Ila 2009 vintage single cask. A cask strength whisky distilled by Islay powerhouse Caol Ila and aged in a single American Hogshead by the independent bottlers ‘Signatory Vintage’.
We actually gave this whisky a test run during the Whisky Live events we attended over the last few months. In addition to whiskies we’ve already presented to the club, we poured samples of this whisky to the attendees in order to gauge the reaction. And the reaction was fantastic! So good, in fact, that we simply couldn’t ignore this whisky as a club offering and so…
About the Distillery
Founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson, Caol Ila has changed hands several times, even with some silent periods through the 30’s and 40’s. It was completely knocked down and rebuilt in 1974 by it’s current owner Diageo. Interestingly, the original still designs were replicated for the new distillery – and the number was increased from 2 to 6 stills – effectively tripling production.
Today Caol Ila produces around 3.5 Million litres of raw spirit annually, which is a lot of whisky. Up until 2002, the ‘modern’ Caol Ila concentrated on making whisky for the blended Scotch whisky brands that Diageo produced. Caol Ila is the core of Johnny Walker Black Label and also plays a major role in building Bells, White Horse, Scottish Leader and Black Bottle blended Scotch whiskies.
Caol Ila supplies such a large amount of whisky to Diagio’s blends that it wasn’t until 2002 that the ‘new Caol Ila’ released a distillery bottled single malt. The release of the Caol Ila 12yo in 2002 heralded a new era for Caol Ila – the return to distillery single malt bottlings. So from mid-70’s until 2002 it was only thanks to independent bottlers that any Caol Ila single malt was available to the public. It’s raw spirit bought, barrelled and aged by these forward thinking curators and then lovingly bottled for a comparative few to enjoy. And the Caol Ila 2009 Vintage from Signatory Vintage, at only 312 bottle, continues the tradition of ‘a few people only’ getting to taste.
Caol Ila is known for it’s light and fresh spirit. They stand out in the Islay region for favouring methods which produce a lighter, more floral spirit. Longer fermentation, higher ‘cut point’ and taller stills adds up to a much more delicate raw spirit with considerably less of the heavy, oily phenols that most Islay malts are renowned for. For a good read on these methods have a look at our Cotswolds whisky review from last year. The team at Cotswolds Distillery employ much the same techniques as Caol Ila for producing a lighter, more floral spirit.
Caol Ila 2009 Vintage - our thoughts
This is the first time we’ve offered a whisky from Signatory Vintage. Like Gordon & MacPhail that we are familiar with – Signatory Vintage is a Perthshire-based independent bottler. They buy raw spirit from distilleries, and age it in casks they choose themselves. Rather unusually, SV specialise in single cask offerings. As the name suggests, all the whisky in a single cask expression is from the one cask. IN the case of the Caol Ila 2009 vintage, an ex-Bourbon Hogshead is used. This means that great care must be taken in selecting a cask to match with the spirit. Any imperfections in the finished product cannot be minimised or covered up by addition of other casks. So I guess you could say this is as single as single malt whisky actually gets. One distillery, one cask. And in this case, just as it comes out of the cask, un-chill filtered and undiluted.
You’ll never taste this whisky again once it is gone – like a fingerprint, it is unique in time. 312 bottles only.
Nose: An initial burst of medicinal iodine – bandaids after BMX! – gives way to a delicate smokeyness over sweet fruit and vanilla.
Palate: Instantly coats whole mouth with a lovely medium warming spice. Malt, butter and fruit underpinned by subtle sweet smoke.
Nose: Sweet smoke, luscious – but not cloying – cured-meat saltyness and kelpy-seaside notes which linger.
Bottlers Tasting Notes
Matured In: A single ex-Bourbon Hogshead Barrel
Cask Number: 318834
Date of Distilling: 13/10/2009
Date of Bottling: 22/10/2018
Outturn: 312 bottles
Palate: First thought is creamy with vanilla, some tobacco and dried pears. The smoke coats the palate and the oils start to work on the finish.