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Caol Ila 12

3.67 (3 reviews)

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SKU: 2020HDMA19736 Category: ABV: 43%Bottle Size: 700mlBrands: Caol IlaDrink or Keep: Drinker


This 12 year old is the entry level bottling from the Caol Ila distillery, launched in June of 2002. This expression is light and fresh with distinctive Caol Ila smoke.  Caol Ila 12 Year Old is of medium weight, but still packing plenty of potent phenols. This is a refined, powerful dram with a compensating oiliness. A balanced, peaty beauty.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Very light oakiness underneath, with only a thin layer of malt serving as a vehicle for the peat. Caol Ila has a reputation for being one of the “lightest” examples of Islay peat, but I would say that the peat here is simply less brash and smokey. There’s no denying that the dominant note here is peat.

Palate: Soft in texture, but with a lot of tongue burn for 43% ABV. The peat is subdued on the palate, revealing instead waves of chocolatey malt and a bit of nutty oak.

Finish: Medium-Long. The peat becomes almost fruity, with a hint of strawberry jam. Chocolate fudge and hazelnut butter.

With Water: A few drops of water make the peat more pungent, but don’t affect its character. The water might tame the tongue burn somewhat. It certainly doesn’t hurt.

Overall: The nose is a little off-putting for some, even if you enjoy peat.  The muddiness and earthy quality of the peat seems very different to us than the peat of other Islay distilleries. However, that all changes on the tongue, where the peat gives way to a very tasty chocolate note. This continues through the finish, which has the strangest merging of boggy peat, strawberry jam, and chocolate fudge. Weird, but very satisfying. we would score this higher if the nose were either more clear and refined, or less peaty. Either way, the rest of the experience makes up for it.

Awards for Caol Ila 12

  • 1st Place – Best Single Malt Scotch 12 Years – 2015 – IWSC
  • Gold – Islay up to 12 years old – 2015 – The Scotch Whisky Masters (The Spirits Business)
  • Gold – Distillers’ Single Malts 12 years and under – 2014 – International Spirits Challenge
  • Silver Outstanding – Scotch Single Malt – Islay – 2017 – IWSC

What some of our whisky enthusiast friends have said about Caol Ila 12

Quote 1 “A truly wonderful drinking experience. Sweet, fruit, thickness, savory undertones. With sweet peat and a long smokey slightly sweet finish. At times it feels like eating an entire meal in one drink. The peat is wonderfully balanced and pleasant in the mouth for peat lovers. If you don’t like peat, why are you drinking this? It would be better at 46%. And because of that, I feel it is priced about where it should be.”

Quote 2 “My first Islay and my 3rd single malt whisky after Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie. This one is very different, abundant peat and smoky with olive oil flavor, and bonfires with a citrus notes a pretty good finish too.

Quote 3 “I immediately sensed, from the aroma. The fruitiness under the acute yet mild smoke. On the palate this combination was sensational. A wonderful aromatic Islay whiskey!”

Do you have a different opinion?  Add your comments below.

3 reviews for Caol Ila 12

  1. Rob

    Nice easy drinking whisky with a decent amount of character. Very light on the peat which makes it quite mild for an islay. Great value

  2. dannylyons1000

    This is a superior product, consisting of an incredibly smooth whiskey, which has a light level of peatiness, accompanied by a secondary light level of smokiness; These are also accompanied by a beautiful slight sweetness, which combined together to make an aromatic and addictive whiskey.
    It is smooth onto the pallet, releasing its flavour slowly and softly in the mouth, and with a fulfilling aftertaste as all three elements combine.
    If you have not tried peaty whiskeys (which are heavy on iodine content) then this will probably be the ideal gateway for you.
    Finally, the review of five stars is made up of five out of five for quality, and five out of five for value.

  3. jean_pierre_pvt

    Being new to the whisky enthusiast scene the Caol Ila was remarkably strange in taste yet alluring as I tried to place all the tastes and smells, a gentle and smooth smokey flavor with ice, would recommend tasting it in numerous different styles to enjoy its very unique flavors and smells.

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