Well, it has been a while since I’ve reviewed a sample from a Caol Ila OB here, so I figured… why not? I mean, I have this old sample sitting in the corner, all alone and surrounded by evil IBs bullying it with their fancy names and their unbearable singlecaskness… So I pick it, and I notice that it’s a 18 y.o. Caol Ila, something I’ve never had the pleasure to try before. It’s quite a standard bottling, along the classic and probably underrated 12 y.o., and the not-so-impressive Moch (well, not so impressive to me, others might love it), and it’s meant to be a powerful step up to the more well-known and more accessible (price-wise too) 12 years old. So let’s taste this nice little fellow!
Now, I opened the sample on the Alte Marienbrücke in Würzburg, with the beautiful Festung Marienberg on the background. And trust me, you know I’m a huge nerd for all kind of things, from climate science to Baroque architecture in Franconia, and I’d love to talk about the the five-century-long history of this fortress built and used by many prince-bishops (Fürstbischöfe, in the delicate musicality of the German language), but I do have to talk about the whisky too.
Nose: Smoke, immediately, with a strong lemon mitigated by an intense sherry mixed to some bourbon vanilla. Oh, I really like this one, it’s caressing my nose. Yes, caressing it, just like Fürstbischof Lorenz von Bibra was caressing the grip of his crosier. A very intense malty scent, too! Great nose, juicy, smoky, deep and citrusy. Very nice, with prominent sweet cereals and a slight salty scent.
Taste: I think the first impression I get is something reminding me of fresh biscuits. I mean, fresh biscuits enveloped in a light blanket of Caol Ila smokiness, that is. Apples, lemons (limes, maybe?), cream, every single taste conspires to make me fall in love with it, a bit like the noblemen at the court of the quarrelsome Fürstbischof Melchior Zobel von Giebelstadt conspiring against Wilhelm von Grumbach in favour of the turbulent Albert Alcibiades of Bayreuth. What names, and what tragic feuds! And what a nice whisky it is this Caol Ila 18 years old! The peat smoke is definitely present, but it’s not as turbulent as the turbulent Albert Alcibiades of Bayreuth. Malty, with elegant touches of pear jam (how elegant can be a pear jam, though?), along with a classic and zesty lemon peel. With time it develops a nice sweeter angle (like burnt sugar) that I do appreciate a lot.
Finish: Decently long, it leaves a fatty sensation, with the smoke persecuting the apples and the pear jam like the Fürstbischof Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn persecuting innocent women as witches.
Overall: Well, how do you know, I enjoyed this Caol Ila quite a lot! I think it deserves a fürstbischof-y 88/100. Definitely a step up in respect to the classic (and still very nice) 12 years old. Sadly, it’s not a cheap one, but I do recommend it. And at this point I’d like to add the prophetic words of Georg Karl von Fechenbach, last Fürstbischof of Würzburg: “If you forgot the sunscreen, drink Caol Ila eighteen”.