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  • Writer's pictureHarold

Caol Ila 83's

In the early 80’s, just as the Scotch whisky world was heading into the dark days of the whisky loch, Caol Ila seemed to be hitting their stride with some amazing production. In today’s market, Independently bottled Caol Ila from the ages of about 6-25 years old can be found for relatively amazing value…and just about everywhere. Anything older though, and Diageo tends to put a premium on their largest peated malt producer. That’s not to say the younger malt is inferior, in any way, there just happens to be much more of it available. In fact, the 83’s seem to have run out, with the last couple of bottlings, according to Whiskybase, drying up back in 2019.

Caol Ila (Wemyss) 1983/35 Year |Smoky Nectar| Hogshead – 46%
Bottle Image Credit: Scotch Whisky Auctions

Caol Ila (Wemyss)

1983/35 Year |Smoky Nectar|

Hogshead – 46%

“Hogsheads” seemed to be the vessel of choice for Caol Ila, during this time period. Is there a bigger bug-a-boo in Scotch whisky than trying to guess between a bourbon or sherry hogshead single cask bottling? Throw in the fact that a whisky of this age could really go either way as far as color being the means of guessing.

Appearance: Light Tawny, Burnt Amber

First Whiff: Sour stone fruits…peaches and apricots.

Nose: Restrained, at first…blame the abv. Although that’s certainly not always the case, of course. A little more nostril needling I find that zesty sourness to start. Unlike citrus zest though, more of a pungent sour peach note, Italian prune plums, and caramel dusted apricots. With water: Caramelized into warm apple cider.

Palate: Creamy, leathery, and soft. A bit prickly/peppery, with the sour peat…smoked salmon side coming through. Ginger spices and warm honey. With water: Dulled the mouthfeel…I was afraid of that but I wanted to see if it would help with the sour funkiness going on…it did not.

Finish: Long, but stinging. And not the alcohol kind. That sourness seems to follow from start to finish turning into citric sour candies…like Warheads!

Summary: One of the feistier Caol Ila’s, it seems. Which is surprising after 35 years, the peat was still as potent as say, a teenage dram…I probably could’ve phrased that better…but you get the point, right?. I wonder if the bottler felt the same way, and hoped the watered down abv would, or DID in fact help.


Caol Ila (The Whisky Jury)  1983/35 Year - Refill Hogshead #75 – 50.3%
Bottle Image Credit: Must Have Malts

Caol Ila (The Whisky Jury)

1983/35 Year

Refill Hogshead 75 – 50.3%

I tried this sample a while back, but never wrote down any formal notes. I remember, quite vividly, this was my favorite pour from a 4 dram, vertical tasting I did a few years ago. One of my first Whisky Jury drams, as well. A bottler, which the market (and myself) has become quite fond of for their excellent selections in not only Scotch, but some rum as well.

Appearance: Deep brown, chestnut sherry.

First Whiff: Like drinking warm black tea (with honey) out of mug made from freshly toasted American oak.

Nose: Sublime. Fresh, creamy caramel. Subtle sweet peat and ginger spices…salmon candy and smoked herring. Underneath the smoke is a fresh glaze of red bramble fruits…strawberries, cooked blueberries/blackberries and some pomegranate. There’s an odd grouping of confectionary sugar in the back that shows up as banana and strawberry Laffy Taffy…although, full disclosure…I HAVE been diving into my son’s trick or treating stash the past few that might just be in my head.

Palate: Supple and soft. Super approachable/inviting…almost dragging you in for more. There’s a creamy zest, usually more familiar ,to me, as an older Speyside style here with some lighter citrus, lemon/lime, mandarins. The sweet, red berry notes from the nose have disappeared. In their place we have some well-rounded, sweet, buttered loaf bread.

Finish: Gentle at first then bitter citrus towards the end. Like leaving cold orange juice out on the counter long enough to warm up…before taking a shot.

Summary: Wonderfully complex from beginning to end. Danced a little in each direction of the fruit chart at times and even played around with some fishy/floral beats as well. Nice to see my memory still holds up.


Caol Ila  1983/30 Year |Diageo Special Releases 2014| Refill American & European Oak – 55.1%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Caol Ila

1983/30 Year |Diageo Special Releases 2014|

Refill American & European Oak – 55.1%

Dialing it down here from the back-to-back 35-year-olds…settling for a mere 30-year-old now. These are tough times, clearly. I know some people preferred this one over the 35-year-old Special Release back in 2018. That one was a 1982 vintage though, which I’m saving for another tasting…all in due time!

Appearance: Deep brown

First Whiff: Jolly Ranchers…candied fruits.

Nose: Softly sour…not as sour as the Wemyss from earlier. More on the dry tropical side here, dried pineapples, apricots and mangos. Tart cantaloupe (if there even IS such a thing). There’s an underlying mineral side bringing out some more chalky tartness…starfruits, lime and lemon zest.

Palate: Oily, velvety, and viscous! BIG mouthfeel…much bigger than the previous two. Quite mineral and metallic…some friendly copper pot molecules might’ve congener-ed their way into here (insert subtle whisky nerd laughter). Tart yellow fruits…pineapple, banana and citrus…lemon, lime and grapefruits all the way through. It’s found its salty sea legs with some salty salinity here, as well (alliteration much?). Very salty/briney towards the back.

Finish: Longgg, slightly numbing but really doesn’t need any water. Leaves a creamy lemon custard/key lime pie coating with a tart, tingling citrus feeling. Like a shot of warm limoncello.

Summary: I enjoyed this so much without water, I really refused to explore it any further. Just a perfect combination of casks here displaying some wonderfully bright, oily spirit from that legendary early 80’s stock. My brain just hurts thinking about what a steal this must’ve been when it was released, back in 2014.



Caol Ila 83's


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