Caol Ila

Caol Ila 18 Years Old 1994 Private Collection (Gordon & MacPhail)

Caol Ila 18 Years Old 1994 Private Collection Sassicaia Wood Finish (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1100 bottles, 2012)

  • Category: Islay single malt scotch whisky
  • Origin: Caol Ila Distillery
  • Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection
  • ABV: 45%
  • Cost: £70


What they say

Caol Ila Distillery – Founded in 1846, Caol Ila has remained an almost secret Islay malt. The name – pronounced ‘culleela’, is gaelic for ‘Sound of Islay’. The distillery is appropriately hidden in a cove near Port Askaig, across which the ferry chugs to the nearby island of Jura.

Gordon & MacPhail was established in 1895. Within a year, the founders were joined by John Urquhart, who took responsibility for the selection and bottling of fine and rare malt Whiskies. He later took over the business. In 1933 he was joined by his son, George, and during the 1960’s and ’70’s, George brought his own children into the family firm, passing on the skills he had inherited from his father. Today it is members of the 3rd and 4th generation of the Urquhart family that own and direct the business.

The single malt whiskies in our private collection wood finish range have been personally selected by members of the Urquhart family.

After an initial period of maturation, whiskies are transferred into wine casks sourced directly from some of the world’s most famous wine producing regions. After a further ‘finishing’ period the Single Malts are only bottled when the Directors consider them to be at their best.

Sassicaia Wood Finish – Sassicaia is regarded as one of the most prestigious wines in the world. It is created in the exciting and fashionable Tuscan wine producing region of Bolgheri. After maturing in traditional casks for ten years, the whisky was transferred to Sassicaia casks for a further eight years maturation. The result is remarkably smooth – baked fruit aromas with hints of toffee apples, plain chocolate and an underlying peat smoke. The palate delivers toasted malt flavours enveloped by rich, mulled fruit notes. The distillery character emerges with peat smoke, birch wood and aniseed notes all present.

Caol Ila 1994 Sassicaia Gordon & Macphail Private Collection

What I say

Bought this immediately after trying a sample at Lockett Bros shop in North Berwick. I have long been a fan of good wine finished whiskies and have tried several Caol Ila’s in the past as a colleague of mine is a huge fan of the distillery flavour and style. We suspect this is because being an ex-smoker, this Islay malt often leaves an aftertaste of gentle cigarette smoke on the finish which he appreciates and enjoys. This is another fine example from Gordon&MacPhail of marrying together strong and subtle flavours to create a whole new taste sensation.

My tasting notes:

  • Colour: Rusty orange/ruby
  • Nose: Smoky peat, peanut, very sweet esters, violets and grapefruit citrus notes
  • Taste: Sweet warming oranges and pink grapefruit flavours with a light prickly spice, develops into a cigarette ash/smoke
  • Finish: Sudden burst of more fruits including strawberries and limes, chocolate lime sweets, nutmeg and a long and delicate smoky bacon smoke vapour


Although this is one of the smoothest and most interesting Caol Ila expression I have had in a long time, there are still some elements of this distillate that I can’t seem to love no matter how hard I try. This is a very special combination of subtle smoke and huge fruity wine flavours and all credit to Gordon & MacPhail for a superb maturation and bottling. I will definitely seek out further whiskies from within this range. For now however I will keep enjoying this bottle for as long as it lasts and perhaps seek out further Caol Ila’s until I do find one that I love. That said, if you do love Caol Ila’s style I suspect this will blow you away!

Score 86/100

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Categories: Caol Ila, Islay

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