A New Round of Scottish Casks Begins
What’s left in this post-Pappy world of whiskey that’s actually worth your hard earned money and not simply priced according to market scarcity, pop culture desire, and a point-driven collector hysteria? When it comes to purchasing casks of costly, three-figure bottles of booze for our K&L customers, we’ve very, very picky because there are few occasions anymore where we feel that an entire barrel of expensive malt whisky is worth shelling out for.
But this is one of those occasions.
The magic of Islay’s Caol Ila distillery has been shaped, forged, and concentrated for 33 long years inside this very special cask of Old Particular, bringing forth one of the most decadent whisky experiences we’ll have the pleasure of offering you this year. The nose carries with it the very essence of Islay: brine, bogs, wet earth, peat, salt, and the sea, all mingling slowly and methodically through the glass. The palate is instantly soft and supple, but at 51.9% it kicks into gear mid-way through and unleashes a wave of ocean spray, sweet barley, smoke, tar, soot, and freshly-cut peat that still shines through despite more than three decades in wood. While we might normally reserve this type of offering for the holidays, we had to grab this rare edition while we had the chance. Gone are the days when legendary casks like this were easily attainable, which is why prices for 30+ year old Caol Ila now hover in the $400-$700 range.
Because of that difficulty, every time I'm able to track down an old barrel of Islay single malt, I wonder to myself: "Is this the last one?" I remember in the case of Port Ellen, perhaps the most famous of Islay rarities, we were able to do one last cask a few years back at $500 a bottle. But when the prices jumped up over $1000, I said "forget it." For some reason, perhaps because of the availability or the lack of general awareness concerning the distillery's greatness, I've been able to dig out an ultra-mature barrel of Caol Ila about once every two years and negotiate a price that makes sense. This particular Caol Ila whisky, a 33 year old distilled in 1984, is one of the better expressions I've found in some time. It's still fresh, lively, and brimming with Islay character. Supple on the palate and lifted on the finish, it's everything an peated whisky lover could ever ask for. It's luxurious, complex, and utterly beautiful from start to finish. Given the current market forces at play, it's also quite reasonable in price. I wouldn't have bought it otherwise. The older I get, the pickier I get about my purchases (ironically in a market where one can't afford to be picky). This is as good of a single malt as we'll sell this year. Trust me—there's nothing on the Scotland schedule for the rest of 2017 as awesome or as ancient as this 33 year Caol Ila.