Caol Ila 30 Year Old 1983 – a fine whisky for a more civilised age

Caol Ila

If you follow us on Twitter you know I was on Islay last weekend. What a glorious few days. One of the highlights for me was the visit to Caol Ila. It’s a malthead’s cliché but it really is one of my favourite distilleries. Over the years they have been more consistent than any other Islay whisky and the clean, font-thirty-two-black-on-white style is exactly what I’m looking for. It doesn’t lack nuance, don’t read it wrong, it’s just very honest and not overworked.

While I’m a bit snowed under with work at the moment and will be feeding thoughts from this trip in dribs and drabs, one thing can’t wait and that’s Caol Ila 30 Year Old, one of DIAGEO’s annual Special Releases announced today. I had the good fortune to try it on Saturday night and here’s what I jotted down.

Caol Ila 30 Year Old 1983
55.1% ABV
Refill American and refill European casks
7,638 bottles
RRP £425

Nose: A burned-out candle stuck to an over-polished oak desk. Soft passionfruit, raisins muddled up with cocoa beans and a minty accent.

Palate: A thin layer of grill smoke rises, swells and eventually, politely but assertively, fills the mouth. This is where the fun happens, it has the elegance of the younger expressions but there is body and maturity to it too. It’s not all thick and dark, mind you, a touch of kiwi and tangerine shone through for me and the finish closed the circle with that polished wood reminder and a new-found peaty energy.

Overall: It’s rather what you’d expect an old Caol Ila to be but I bet it will still take you by surprise. Just like a view from the top of a mountain can never be imagined, even if we know what we’re going to see. It’s an elegant whisky and a throwback to the bygone era. Unashamedly old school, packed with finesse and – drum roll – not priced with the oil baron in mind. The packaging deserves a mention too. It’s simple and sexy, just like Hoban.

We’re not really known here at Edinburgh Whisky Blog for giving valid consumer advice so prick your ears up and record this moment for posterity. If you feel like spending £425 on a bottle, get this one. It will give you hours of joy, you’ll love it and it’ll love you back. But if, like me, you’re a Caol Ila fan with mid-shelf pocket depth and the ability to work your way through bottles of fine juice at a fair old pace, then get Caol Ila 25 Year Old instead. Proper explanation to follow.

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