After sampling the stunningly drinkable Caol Ila Distillers Edition whisky, one could be forgiven for thinking Shakespeare’s ever-quotable Sonnet 18 was actually in reference to the everlasting enjoyment of a perfectly constructed dram, rather than the scribed permanence of a young man’s beauty. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate, rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date…But thy eternal summer shall not fade, nor lose possession of that fair thou owest”. I can only imagine what the lyrical waxings of England’s foremost writer would have been had the sea-perched Islay distillery been up and running 230 years prior…
One of the things I love most about whisky, in particular Scotch, is its ability to transport the drinker to the land and time in which it was forged. This unique quality among spirits imbues each cask with a definitive personality and an almost Proustian rush-like power over its drinker and the 2002 distilled (2014 bottled), release of the Caol Ila D.E. is a warm, joyful summer’s day – the sun-drenched quality of which the cast of Grease could only dream of (summer’s lovers, guaranteed a blast with this bottle).
The nose is of delicate wildflowers and soft honey, with just a touch of salted caramel and light peat. When sipped, the flavour profile evolves from bright golden suns of lemon peel to a fresh bite of watercress and schmaltz herring with a background minerality reminiscent of a babbling brook and an earthy richness of soil and smoky bonfires.
This is a whisky to lighten the spirits on a cold, drizzly winter’s evening, reminding oneself that there are and will be sunnier climes in the future, or, if you’re already basking in the sunshine, to enhance a truly perfect day out at sea or on a picnic blanket.
A drop this fine will always come with a price to match – £74.95 on The Whisky Exchange to be precise – however, I’d wager my last penny that you’ll find the therapeutic qualities of each lingering sip worth every hard-earned…well, you get the idea.
Although there’s an inherent irony in the young man’s ephemeral beauty immortalised in Shakespeare’s Sonnet, if kept properly, a bottle of Caol Ila will truly outlive the fading good looks of a summer fling…if you can avoid draining the bottle before the autumn leaves fall, that is.
Melanie Chenoweth is a London based, freelance food writer and photographer. If you can eat it, she’ll snap it. Then eat it. Then write about it.