Fèis Ìle 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak and like many other events and festivals it was moved to an online format. One big aspect of a whisky festival is the festival bottlings and many festivals and distilleries retained their plans for a special bottling. Some replaced the original bottling with a different one like Bruichladdich, some didn’t release a bottling like Bowmore and some took their time to offer a festival bottling like the Diageo Islay based distilleries of Caol Ila and Lagavulin.
We don’t know what were the original plans for the 2020 festival bottling from Caol Ila but eventually it was revealed it’s a 16 Year Old Caol Ila finished in Amoroso sherry casks.
It was initially matured in Refill ex-bourbon casks and then finished in Amoroso treated Hogsheads, all personally selected by Pierrick Guillaume the Distillery manager.
We’ve seen Amaroso finished whisky from Diageo in the form of Talisker Distillers Edition but it’s not too common out there.
Caol Ila 16 Year Old for Fèis Ìle 2020 (53.9%, 3000 bottles, £120)
Nose: Strong and a bit sour vanilla – almost lactic. Sour sweet bright berries. yellow plums and gooseberries, maritime with gentle smoke, sugared lemon peels, more vanilla, ripe yellow green grapes. After a long time in the glass it becomes sweeter with almonds and nuttiness.
Palate: Fresh and bright, sweet grapes and sweet pears, also grapes marmalade and generally a lot of sweetness going on here. Slightly maritime and salty, smoke, peat, vanilla, oak spice and tannins,
Finish: Long finish, dry and spicy, oak spice, coals dust, smoke, slightly bitter and salt.
Thoughts: This is a whisky offering a different view of Caol Ila whisky. The Amoroso sherry casks did their job here engulfing and enriching the Caol Ila with sweet grapes. Again, we don’t see too many whiskies using Amoroso sherry casks, we’ve mentioned the Talisker DE and there are also some high-end Jura/Dalmore special releases but that’s all. It could be that the strong bright sweetness those casks imparts on the whisky is just too strong. Even here the Caol Ila whisky barely withstand the sweetness attack. Nevertheless, It’s a refreshing and solid Caol Ila, just not the kind of a bottle for a repeat purchase if it was still available at retail price.