Caol Ila

SMWS 53.178 A pebble beach with iodine

Caol Ila 20 Years Old 1992 53.178 A pebble beach with iodine (55.8%, SMWS, 281 Bottles, 2013)

  • 55.8% ABV, £68 for 70cl
  • Score: 80/100


What they say:

The distillery overlooks the Sound of Islay and this example of its make is as clean and elemental as the sea itself: salt and seaweed – a pebble beach (rounded but hard), with Coal Tar soap, Dettol and industrial carbolic. A powerful, salt and pepper taste after a surprisingly sweet start (maple syrup), with fennel in the middle and burnt Canadian bacon in the finish. The aroma reduces dramatically with water – now bandages, faint TCP and plaster-casts. Still very sweet to taste, slightly chalky, with traces of seaweed, some warming spice and still the burnt bacon finish.

Drinking Tip: To de-stress after a bad day

Date Distilled: 17th January 1992

Colour: Very pale gold

Age: 20 years

Flavour : Peated

Cask Type: Refill hogshead

Whisky Region: Islay

53.178 bottles

What I say:

The 5th and final dram from WOLS 14/5 Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting hosted by Ryan McCafferty. This is a 20 year old Caol Ila (SMWS distillery #53) from a refill hogshead providing a 281 bottle outturn.


Light gold with heavy/strong tears (oily?)


Cereal barley malt, grassy or dry hay, dusty flour, light peat smoke, iodine, germolene and menthol medicinal and cleaning agent smells


Slightly spicy, hints of honey and cereals before tiger balm and menthol, waxy, anise, clove, mace and charcoal


Medium, barley malt, earthy, oak wood and charcoal


Not what I would describe as a traditional Caol Ila dram, the age seems to have mellowed both the peat smoke and the base spirit. Little evidence of strong wood influence here. The result is really quite drinkable, everything in moderation and plays gently off of each of the flavours in this dram. On the face of it my tasting notes suggest quite harsh, powerful aromas and flavours but this is not the case at all, again most have that slightly ethereal quality just enough to tickle the senses. There is no doubting this is an Islay dram but I was left with smouldering bonfire ashes and charcoal tinged with the aroma of perhaps whatever had been cooked on them. The end result is pleasurable.

Categories: Caol Ila, Islay

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