The Diageo Distiller’s Edition range of whiskies is a more premium range which runs across the “Classic Malts” group of distiller’s. Some of which have already been reviewed here but the complete range is:

Each are basically a sherry wood finished whisky which a premium price tag, a vintage year and a story. That doesn’t mean they are bad of course just you know… heavily marketed.

I really like the Caol Ila distillery and there range of official bottlings. I also really enjoy the range and value from the independent scene so it was quite a shock to find out I have never reviewed one for this blog.

The Distillery

The Caol Ila was founded in 1846 and is located at the north end of the island near the ferry terminal of Port Askaig. The location was perfect when deliveries on and off the island were via the pier on the island. Today, it is less practical but at least it isn’t as bad as the Bunnhabhain road which is being widened in places with the new Ardnahoe distillery currently being built on the same road.

The distillery there today dates from 1974 with the original warehousing still to be seen on the sight. I have toured the distillery and inside the 1970’s building it completely reminds me of the high school I went to from the same via. The office parts at least, I wasn’t educated in an alcohol production site you understand (sadly).

Many people will probably tell  you Caol Ila tours are the most forgettable and uninspired which may or may not have been true in the past. I visited in 2017 and Jackie was outstanding and bursting with knowledge and passion for the place and the island. Her partner is the current distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume and they seem to bring a fresh air to the place.

Also of interest might be the cat!


The Dram

The 2003 vintage Distiller’s edition was bottled in 2015 making it the same stated age as the £35 12 year old bottle. It is bottled at 43% also like its cheaper sibling to but the colour looks like little artificial colouring as been added which is nice since it is twice the price.

What is different is the Moscatel wine cask finish before bottling. Moscatel is a very sweet desert type of fortified wine which has a lot in common with Pedro Ximenez. That intense sickly sweet and rich flavour will leave a lot of flavour in the whisky when it is bottled but how much of the Caol Ila character will be left? For £72.65 the casks must be awfully rare and expensive though.

Tasting Notes


Colour – Lemon Juice

Nose – Lots of apples and pear fruit notes. Very fruity in fact with a earthy leafy note in the background. There is a touch of over ripened grapes and a sharpness of white wine. Lovely stuff.

Palate – The texture however, is disappointing. More of the fleshy fruit notes though and a touch of ash, herbs, caramelised sugars and tobacco leaves.

Finish – The Caol Ila character is most obvious in the finish. A malty note appears as well which I haven’t ever noticed in the standard 12 year old. Ashy again and the finish lasts longer than I expected given the thin texture of the palate.

Final Thoughts

I liked this 2003 vintage better than the 2001 vintage I tried a few years ago. The nose especially is lovely, full of sweet fruits and subtle peat smokey embers. The texture is just killing the overall experience though. I don’t know why it had to be watered down so far in the name of “smoothness”. An interestingly thought  I had though with this vintage was how similar the notes were to the Lagavulin Distillers edition which just shows both how similar the PX and Moscatel casks are but also how invasive there influence is on spirit that it strips out distillery character to a fair large extent.

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