Caol Ila

Caol Ila 2004 Connoisseurs Choice

Caol Ila 2004 Connoisseur’s Choice (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, 2016)

Whisky Review

  • Category: Islay single malt scotch whisky
  • Origin: Caol Ila Distillery
  • Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice
  • ABV: 46%
  • Cost: £42.43

Caol Ila 2004 Connoisseurs Choice

What they say:

In the mid-1960s Gordon & MacPhail took the unprecedented step of launching a range of single malts under the brand name ‘Connoisseurs Choice’. Until this time, many of the whiskies the range featured would not have been available as single malt. Today, ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ retains this exclusive nature with a range of rare and sought after single malts from distilleries throughout Scotland.

Caol IIa is a lively whisky, both peaty and full of flavour, without being as intense as its more famous counterparts. Its availability is limited, and with a name that is difficult to pronounce, 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, overlooking the Sound of Islay, across which the ferry chugs to the nearby island of Jura.


Pale Gold.


Light to medium.


Long, spicy and smoky.

Cask Type

First and refill bourbon barrels.


A sweet and spicy Islay Malt.

AROMA without water

Cured bacon with maple syrup aromas mingle with red apple and hint of fresh lemon.

TASTE without water

Creamy yet spicy with ginger, orange, and ripe banana flavours which are complemented by an charred ash edge.

AROMA with water

Lemon and lime cordial notes mingle with apple, pear, and sweet candied fruits. A subtle heather aroma develops and combines with subtle peat smoke.

TASTE with water

Creamy with pineapple, burnt marshmallow, and smooth white chocolate with hints of vanilla. Apple and ginger flavours develop finishing with a lingering smoke edge.

What I say:

A ~ 12 year old expression from Caol Ila distillery on Islay, matured in 1st fill and refill bourbon barrels and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail as part of their Connoisseur’s Choice range. Thanks to Gordon & MacPhail for providing a sample as part of their ‘Wood Makes The Whisky’ campaign highlighting the influence of wood maturation on their own whisky stocks.


Yellow Gold (5/20), tapered medium-fine legs, fine tears


Sweet, shellfish, calcium, ozone, Edinburgh rock (chalky/sweet), fruity apple, cinnamon buns, vanilla custard, seaside, beach, peat smoke, cured meats


Smooth and sweet, vanilla custard, Edinburgh rock, marzipan, coke/coal & peat smoke, cured meat, grassy, toffee or caramel, fruity apple and lime


Long peat smoke and ash, toffee and vanilla


Classic young but accomplished Caol Ila possibly the most simple of the three sampled but clean and direct in its flavour presentation. Balanced and at times almost imperceptible peat influence as it is countered beautifully against the vanilla sweetness. I could drink a lot more of this sadly often overlooked Islay distillery but a producer of some true gems like this on from Gordon & MacPhail.

Score: 85/100

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Categories: Caol Ila, Islay

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