Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year Old!
Tucked away in one of the most picturesque corners of the UK lies Caol Ila. It’s the largest of the Islay distilleries by output, but you’d never guess from its quaint, waterfront position, all white-painted warehouses and traditional buildings, only accessible by snaking, single-track road. The distillery clings to the steep hillside; the Paps of Jura tower from across the Sound of Jura. It might produce 6.5 million litres of alcohol a year, and it might be a significant player in the blended behemoth that is Johnnie Walker, but when you visit Caol Ila, there’s an incredible sense of tranquillity.
This could be about to change. As part of a £150 million investment across its network of distilleries, parent company Diageo is in the process of updating the visitor centre at Caol Ila. It’ll be the Johnnie Walker’s Islay embassy, if you will. There’s to be a stunning aerial walkway and state-of-the-art facilities. Get set for a transformation.
We might need to be a little patient before we can explore the new visitor centre, but there are drams aplenty we can enjoy right now. And coincidentally, Whisky Advent’s Day 13 dram hails from Caol Ila. It’s a sumptuously smoky drop, with delicious texture and incredible character. It’s…
Caol Ila 12 Year Old!
Here to tell us more is Pierrick Guillaume, Caol Ila site operations manager.
Master of Malt: Caol Ila is a remote distillery even by Islay standards! Tell us a little bit about a typical day in that setting…
Pierrick Guillaume: A typical day would consist of walking down to the distillery from home. In the winter you face the sun rising over the Jura hills with the sea between us. Well… when you see the sun! I’m lucky enough to regularly see wildlife through my office’s window such as seals, otters, guillemots or dolphins! Then after work, in the summer you can walk three minutes away from the distillery and catch a fish for dinner or if you are lucky, stop a fishing boat from the pier to get lobsters straight off the water! There are a lot of amazing spots to go for a run or a walk around the distillery too and there are a few sports activities that you can go to at night, rugby, football, netball, swimming, kayaking.
MoM: Talk us through the signature Caol Ila character…
PG: Caol Ila is a fruit market in a smoky hall. Caol Ila 12-year-old is the perfect entry door to the peaty world. When you take away this gentle peat wrapping the aromas, you are facing a whole range of fruitiness going from exotic notes to richer and darker fruits.
What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?
PG: I think we will see an increased focus on sustainability in whisky-making – we are constantly innovating in this field to reduce the water usage at our distilleries and looking at ways of reducing our environmental impact, and this will, of course, continue to be a priority into 2020 and beyond.
What will you be drinking this Christmas?
PG: It will be Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition back home in the South West of France with my family whilst eating our home-made Yule log cake.
Caol Ila 12 Year Old Tasting Note:
Nose: It’s lively, fresh and herbal, with a distinct smoke wafting through. There are hints of cooked ham, too, along with cigar leaves and an aromatic citrus vibe.
Palate: The rich, oily texture is immediately apparent, along with the tar and smoke notes. There’s a confectionery sweetness along with orchard fruits.
Finish: The smoke goes on and on, framed with a gentle pepper warmth.