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Distillery in Focus:          Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Name: Caol Ila ("Sound of Islay")
Status: Active
Website: www.discovering-distilleries.com
Telephone: 01496 850 011
E-Mail: caolila.distillery@diageo.com
Address: Port Askaig, Isle of Islay PA46 7R Latitude 55.8543 N, Longitude 6.1093W
Visitor centre: Yes
Owner: Diageo
Established in 1846
Stills: 3 wash and 3 spirit still
Percentage single malt: N.A.
Casks used for maturation: Refill bourbon cask, with some rare sherry casks.
Contribute(d) to the following blends: Bulloch Lade, Black bottle, Johnnie Walker, Bell's and White Horse.

Regular Bottling:

Caol Ila Moch (since 2011)
Caol Ila Cask Strength 59.3%
Caol Ila Moscatel finish 43%
Caol Ila 12 YO, 43%
Caol Ila 18 YO 43% (until 2008)

For the tasted whiskies, click here

Many Caol Ila have been released as part of their Special Releases (e.g., Caol Ila 25 YO 58.4%, Caol Ila unpeated 1998 -10 YO 65.8%, Caol Ila "bottled only for the friends" 43%). The first official single cask (12 YO) has been released during the Feis Ile 2009 58.0% followed by a more widely available Caol Ila Manager's choice in 2010. Caol Ila had been previously bottled at 15 YO (43%) in their Fauna & Flora range and at several occasions in their Rare Malts collection. A Caol Ila 1990 Manager's dram and a 150th Anniversary special bottling have been released for the staff only.


From left to right: The first official 12 YO (43%, since 1988), the 15 YO Manager's dram (1990), the 20 YO 150th Anniversary, the 23 YO Rare Malts (1978), the Caol Ila at the Distillery 2007 (58.4%) and the now discontinued 18 YO 43% (2008).

History of the Caol Ila distillery

 

The distillery was built in 1846 by Hector Henderson.

Norman Buchanan took over the distillery in 1854, when the business of Hector Henderson was sequestrated. Buchanan ceased trading in 1863, when the distillery was acquired by Bulloch Lade & Co. The distillery was improved and extended in 1879. The annual output was then 381,500 LPA. Of note, this was the first distillery on Islay to use concrete for the buildings. Bulloch Lade went into voluntary liquidation in 1920 and purchased by J.P. O’Brien Ltd who resold it later that year to Caol Ila Distillery Co Ltd, company managed by Robertson & Baxter Ltd. The new owner devoted a lot of capital to further improve productivity. The Distillers Company Limited and its associates obtained control of the distillery in 1927 and all the shares 3 years later. The distillery was silent between 1930 and 1937.

On account of wartime restriction, the distillery closed from 1941 to 1945. The floor malting operation were stopped in 1970. Since the main buildings were outworn and the SMD needed to expand the capacity of the distillery to support the extension of their brands. it was decided to demolish the entire structure, with the exception of the warehouses, and to build a new distillery.

Production stopped in April 1972 and restarted on 30 January 1974 in the new distillery with 6 stills (including 2 from the old distillery) heated by team from an oil-fired boiler. The cost of the project amounted to over one million pounds. SMD tranferred the control of the new distillery to its associate Bulloch Lade & Co. Ltd. The distillery was transferred to United Distillers in 1992 and became part of Diageo plc (UDV) in 1997. Unpeated malt, called internally "highland spirit" have been produced since 1999.

 

Caol Ila still house with the view over the sound of Jura and the Paps of Jura
The washbacks with the mash tun on the back The spirit safe

 

Source: Distillery visit, The Scotch Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo, The Making of Scotch whisky by John R. Hume & Michael S. Moss, Rare Malts, Facts, Figures and Taste by Ulf Buxrud and The DCL Distillery Histories Series by Brian Spiller.
Patrick Brossard © 16 May 2010

Tasted whiskies (65):

Official/original bottlings (OB)  
Age  
Caol Ila 8 YO unpeated, OB, 59.8%, B:2006 Rating: 08/20
Caol Ila 10 YO unpeated, OB, 65.8%, B: 2009. 6000 b. Rating: 11/20
Caol Ila 11 YO Feis Ile 2011, OB, 64.3%, B: 2011, c. 301/696, 500 b Rating: 15/20
Caol Ila 12 YO, OB, 43%. B:2006 Rating: 14/20
Caol Ila 12 YO unpeated, OB, 64%, B: 2011 Rating: 10/20
Caol Ila 14 YO unpeated, OB, 59.3%, B: 2012, 5958 bottles Rating: 12/20
Caol Ila 15 YO Manager's Dram, OB, 63% Rating: 19/20
Caol Ila 15 YO Golden Decanter, OB, 43%, B: 1980s. Rating: 17/20
Caol Ila 25 YO, OB, 43%, B: 2010. Rating: 16/20
   
Vintages  
Caol Ila 1996 Feis Ile 2009, 12 YO, OB, 58%, cask 19313. Rating: 16/20
Caol Ila 1997 Manager's Choice , OB, 58%, B: 2009. c 14185 Rating: 18/20
Caol Ila 1999 Feis Ile 2010, OB, 61.9%, B:2010, c. 305646 Rating: 17/20
Caol Ila 2007 at Distillery, 58.4%, OB, 2000 bottles Rating: 17/20
   
No age specified  
Caol Ila Cask Strength, OB, 55%. B:2006 Rating: 10/20
Caol Ila Moch, OB, 43%, B: 2011 Rating: 14/20

 

Independent bottlings (IB) and undisclosed "Caol Ila"  
   
Adelphi  
Caol Ila 1984, 23 YO, Adelphi, 57.3%, B: 2008, c. 626 Rating: 16/20
Caol Ila 1993, 12 YO, Adelphi, 59.9%, cask 7850 Rating; 17/20
Caol Ila 1993, 12 YO, Adelphi, 59.1%, B: 2006, c. 915 Rating: 14/20
Breath of Islay (Caol Ila) 1999, 11 YO, Adelphi, 56.6%, B : 2010, c. 5582, 286 b. Rating: 14/20
   
Blackadder  
Caol Ila 1982, 27 YO, Blackadder, 55.8%, B: 2009. c. 757 Rating: 15/20
   
Bladnoch Forum  
Caol Ila 1980, 30 YO, Bladnoch Forum, 53.3%, B: 2010, c. 4684, 264 b. Rating: 17/20
Caol Ila 1984, 25 YO, Bladnoch Forum, 54.1%, B: 2010, c. 5388, 265 b. Rating: 16/20
   
Berry Bros & Rudd  
Caol Ila 1982 for LMDW, 26 YO, BBR, 55.4%, B: 2008, c 756 Rating: 18/20
Caol Ila 1984 for LMDW, 25 YO, BBR, 57.9%, B: 2009, c 5383, 280 b. Rating: 15/20
Caol Ila 1996, 12 YO, BBR, 56.7%, B: 2008, c. 12245. Rating: 16/20
   
Carn Mor (Scottish Liqueur Centre)  
Caol Ila 1979, 30 YO, Carn Mor, 59.5%, B: 2009, cask 4603 Rating: 12/20
   
Douglas Laing  
Caol Ila 1979 OMC, 25 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2005, c. 2102, 271 b. Rating:  15/20
Caol Ila 1990 OMC Rum finish, 17 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2007, ref #3898, 182 b Rating: 18/20
Caol Ila 1996 for Clan Divo, 16 YO, Clan Denny, 58.2%, B:2013,  ref DH9740, 150 b. Rating: 14/20
   
Duncan Taylor  
Caol Ila 1996 NC2, 16 YO, Duncan Taylor, 46%, B: 2008 Rating: 13/20
   
Exclusive Malts  
Caol Ila 1980 Exclusive Malts, 28 YO, David Stirk, 50.5%, cask 4936 Rating: 16/20
Caol Ila 1984 Exclusive Malts, 23 YO, David Stirk, 50.7%, B: 2007, c. 2729 Rating: 16/20
   
First Cask  
Caol Ila 1982, 25 YO, First Cask, 60.8%, B: 2007 Rating: 17/20
   
Gordon & MacPhail  
Caol Ila 1966 for Meregalli, Gordon & MacPhail, 57.2% Rating: 18/20
Caol Ila 1969, 15 YO, G&M 60.4%, B: 1984 Rating: 17/20
Caol Ila 1969 Private Collection, 35 YO, G&M, 45%, B:2004, c. 1755 and 1760, 374 b. Rating: 19/20
Caol Ila 1993 Connoisseur’s choice, G&M,40%, B:2006. Rating: 16/20
Caol Ila 1996, G&M, 59.1%, cask 6070-72 Rating:  15/20
Caol Ila 1996 for LMDW, G&M, 46%, B: 2008, c.161179. Rating: 16/20
Caol Ila for Sestante, 20 YO, Gordon & MacPhail, 53.6%. Rating: 16/20
   
High Spirit  
Caol Ila 1984 Valentino Zagatti’s Personal Choice, 24 YO, High Spirits, 46%, B : 2008. Rating: 12/20
   
Jack Wiebers  
Caol Ila 1979 Cross Hill, 27 YO, JWWW, 60.9%, 204 bottles Rating: 17/20 
Caol Ila 1984, 22 YO, Jack & Jack (JWWW), 51%, B: 2006 Rating: 16/20
   
James MacArthur  
Caol Ila 1995 Old Masters Sherrywood, 14 YO, James MacArthur, 58.4%, B: 2010, c.10042. Rating: 16/20
   
Jas Gordon  
Caol Ila 1972, Jas Gordon & Co, 40%, B: 198 Rating: 12/20
   
Jean Boyer  
Caol Ila 1979 Best Casks of Scotland, 26 YO, Jean Boyer, 46% Rating: 18/20
   
Murray McDavid  
Caol Ila 1991 Mission, 17 YO, MMD ,46%. B : 2008 Rating:  15/20
   
Samaroli  
Caol Ila 1978 20th Anniversary, Samaroli, 50%, B:1998 Rating: 18/20
   
Scott's Selection  
Caol Ila 1984, Scott’s selection, 54.1%, B:2004. Rating: 17/20 
Caol Ila 1994, Scott's selection, 54.1%, B: 2007 Rating: 13/20
   
Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS)  
Caol Ila 1974 53.35, 24 YO, SMWS, 58.4%, Rating: 16/20 
   
Signatory  
Caol Ila 1974 for LMDW, 30 YO, Signatory, 46%, B: 2005. c. 12623, 419 b. Rating: 17/20 
Caol Ila 1974, 32 YO, Signatory, 55.7%, B: 2007, c. 12624, 261 b. Rating: 19/20
Caol Ila 1975, 32 YO, Signatory, 58.4%, B: 2007, c. 458, 221b Rating: 17/20
Caol Ila 1979, 26 YO, Signatory, 58.7% Rating: 13/20
Caol Ila 1983 for Waldhaus am See,30 YO, Signatory, 48.9%, B:2013, c.5302, 250 b. Rating:  15/20
   
Speciality Drinks  
Port Askaig 17 YO, Speciality Drinks Ltd, 45.8%, B: 2009 Rating: 13/20
   
Wemyss  
Wemyss Vanilla Smoke Islay 1997, Wemyss, 46%, B: 2009. 342 b. Rating: 13/20
   
Whisky Agency (The) (TWA)  
Caol Ila 1979, 32 YO joint bottling with The Nectar, TWA, 52%, B: 2011, 242 b. Rating: 16/20
Caol Ila 1982, 27 YO, The Perfect Dram, 62.4%, B: 2009, 108 b Rating: 15/20
Caol Ila 1983 The Perfect Dram (Refill sherry), 26 YO, TWA, 55.3%, B: 2009 Rating: 16/20
   
Whisky Chamber (The)  
Caol Ila 1983, 27 YO, The Whisky Chamber, 51.4%, B: 2011 Rating: 16/20
   
Whisky Fair  
Caol Ila 1981, 30 YO, The Whisky Fair, 51.6%, B: 2011, 130 b. Rating: 17/20
Caol Ila 1984 sherry, 22 YO, Whiskyfair, B: 2007, 55.9% Rating: 17/20
   
Wilson & Morgan  
Caol Ila 1974, 18 YO, Morgan & Wilson, 60.9%, B: 1993, c. 12493, 262 b. Rating: 17/20

 

 

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