Gaelic for ‘The Sound of Islay’, the fierce stretch of water that floods past Port Askaig at the narrows between Islay and Jura, the Caol Ila distillery has stood since 1846 like a sentry overlooking the port and the northern access to the island. Somewhat utilitarian in its stature, it has never held the same romanticism or notorious reputation as some of its boisterous neighbors.
Not to be overlooked, however!
For years this distillery has been the powerhouse of Diageo and its blending program, utilized in many of its brands. Both peated and unpeated styles of single malt have been made at the distillery throughout its time, both destined for blends; however it’s the peated spirit that generally takes all the plaudits.
You can sit at a bar anywhere in the world, sipping away at a blended Scotch whisky, and odds are that Caol Ila is probably involved – Diageo brand or not. Such is the distillery’s importance in trading, which would explain its scarcity as a single malt.
During the journey of production, what starts off as a heavily-peated mass of malted barley goes on to mellow into a delicate, citrusy, fruity and distinctly maritime spirit which matures quite delightfully in ex-bourbon casks. Certainly one of the friendlier single malts from Islay.