Feb 20, 2016

Hepburn's Choice Caol Ila 5yo...

Hepburn's Choice Caol Ila 5yo (%58.4): I always had a huge soft spot for very young peaty Scotch whiskies matured in ex-bourbon barrels. I know it's not everybody's cup of tea but the nose of those young whiskies resembles always entering still rooms of distilleries and brings back so many happy memories. When I figured out that K&L Wine Merchants carry this five year old Caol Ila (They also have a 5yo Talisker from the same label by the way) I didn't think even think twice and managed to get one bottle right away. It is a single cask expression bottled exclusively for K&L by Langside Distillers under the label of Hepburn's Choice. Hepburn's Choice line is named after William Hepburn, the grandfather of Langside Distiller's director and it's actually a part of the Hunter Laing. The whisky is distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2015 from a refill hogshead. The cask yielded 305 bottles at cask strength. It is not chill filtered and not colored. Color: Just a hint of pale straw... Almost clear, barely got some color from the cask. Nose: A big first impression of new make spirit... Pungent, spirity and restless. Soot, freshly squeezed lemon juice and band aid. Beach ball, garden hose, inner tube and iodine tincture. Wet hemp ropes soaked in gasoline and grease left under the sun on the deck of a fishing boat to dry. Lemon rind, vanilla extract, wet gardening soil and box of matches. Adding water shifts it to a peatier but less citrusy side: bonfire you visit the morning after, dried sea salt on skin and wet clay. Palate: It's very hot without water addition: Massive burn on the palate like chewing a mouthful of black peppercorns and charcoal. Numbing... After adding a healthy amount of water and waiting for quite some time for the whisky to air I kinda start slowly to detect more stuff: Ashes, dandelion leaves and rubber band ball. Still extremely peppery... Vine charcoal sticks and carbonized asparagus sticks forgotten on the grill. After third time of dropping more water finally some fruit notes surface: Granny Smith apples, salted quince slices and yellow grapefruit gratin. Finish: Sizzling long but mostly with black pepper burn on the tip of the tongue. Overall: Well, this was a challenging ride, even for me... It is extremely young and spirity... I hate to say but in general there isn't much going on on the palate in terms of complexity and depth. It is a fun and straightforward dram but definitely not an exciting nor interesting one. The nose is sweeter and more layered than the palate and makes it slightly more playful but the palate is pretty tough to deal with. It is mostly flat, one dimensional and hot. It is a malt which makes you wish for something else to support it or play with it. In other words this malt is looking desperately for its grain counterpart to create a simple but potentially interesting young blend. At the end I have to admit that it tastes exactly what you would think a five year old cask strength Caol Ila would taste like, nothing less and nothing more. For what it's worth I plan to have more fun with it in coming weeks by trying it in high balls and in some house made blends but you are warned: It is for adventurous and restless whisky enthusiasts and mad peat lovers only... If you are not up for it, you better skip this one...




Caol Ila Distillery, November 2009