As an interesting set of articles I thought I would review the Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila from Gordan & MacPhail against the Caol Ila 12 Year Old offical bottling. This independent small batch release comes out every year and is in the same presentation which we harp on about here. The natural colour and non chill filtered fanboy-ism is in full swing here and over the internet but is it really night and day better?
This version of Connoisseurs Choice pre-dates the 2018 facelift to the packaging. This is the £40 2017 version which is 46% ABV and to the best of my knowledge 100% ex-bourbon casks. The new 2018 version is slightly older and more expensive at around £70 and is aged in ex-bourbon before a finishing in wine casks. There is an awful lot of whiskies at that price point though so a purchase is perhaps more of a risk.
Colour – Barley yellow (G&M on left, Official 12 on right)
Nose – Initially yeasty and malty with some sour dough. Then the sweetness arrives with honey and sweet peat smoke. Some sea salt is noticeable much more than the official 12 which might be because it is generally more spirity
Palate – The arrival matches the nose with some pepper and heat on the mid palate. This develops into the ashy peat and sweetened honey notes. It is kind of disappointing after a more intense nose than the official one. This might be just as old as the official one but it certainly tastes much younger.
Finish – Spicy peppers with a sour and bitter finish. Notes of lemon rinds and fizzy sour sweets are noticeable. The length is very good certainly more so than the official one.
So the good points about this whisky are the little bit extra ABV does go a long way and the texture is slightly better. There are two striking conclusions from tasting the official 12 and this indi bottle though which are 1) amazing just how similar these two bottle are with very little to choose between then and 2) younger whisky is still younger whisky even if you bottle it naturally there is little substitute for time in good wood. The official release wins this tie for me.