Few distilleries combine tradition and modernity as effectively as Caol Ila.
The distillery is one of Scotland’s most remote, nestled in a cove in Port Askaig, on the tip of Islay. It overlooks the ferocious Sound of Islay, from which it takes its name, and looks across to Jura.
A pier was built in front of it in the 1860s, and for the next 100 years or so, two steamers a week were dropping off raw materials to it, and taking spirit away. But for all the quaintness, Caol Ila is an industrial giant, an island colossus, and to meet the growing demands on it, has been rebuilt on a couple of occasions, including an expansion in 2010.
Caol Ila once owned its own puffer steamer, called Pibroch. It was decommissioned in 1972.
When ex-distillery Manager Billy Stitchell retired after 39 years, he ended a family link with the distillery. His father, both grandfathers and his great grandfather all worked there.
The distillery’s large windowed still room has one of the whisky world’s most stunning views.
The nose initially has a BBQ smoky component, lemon salt, bacon, ash, sea air, liquorice, toasted bread. With water it becomes softer, fresh coastal notes, seaweed.
Leathery, honeyed sweetness, toasted seeded bread, white pepper, all spice, clove lemon drops.
Medium - Long, smoked meats, light but full bodied, well balanced, charred lemon skin, oatcakes.
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