It’s been a while since I’ve written a review so I thought I’d ease my way back in with a familiar favourite.. Coal Ila 12 Year Old.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a Coal Ila that I didn’t enjoy and I’ve just enjoyed a bottle of the 12yo. Not all at once I should add. So, what are my last impressions as I drain the bottle? I think Coal Ila is possibly the only whisky I’ve come across that I’d describe as refreshing. No in a lightweight/speyside kind of way. It’s still distinctly Islay, the smokey, medicinal character is still there. But it’s sweeter than many others from Islay and has a distinct freshness to it. It’s almost like a mouthwash in its invigorating mouthfeel. It’s smooth too (I found it doesn’t really need water) with very little burn and extremely moreish.
The freshness comes right from the start, sticking my nose in the glass, the smell rushes up like a bracing gust of wind. I’ve heard the smell described as a TCP, usually in a degroatory way from non-whisky drinkers. I can understand that although it’s less acrid than that. It’s a ‘clean’ smell that hits you. Once that dies away I picked up hints of vanilla fudge. A tiny hint of smoke. But a dry smoke, not thick with damp peatiness.
The pale straw colour of the whisky belies its characterful nature, but it clings nicely to the sides of the glass.
I’ve always found it to be very consistent. Sometimes a whisky (even from the same bottle), doesn’t quite taste as good (or the same) as the last time I tried it, which is much more down to me than the whisky. But Coal Ila always seems to retain the same characteristics I remember.
It’s not the cheapest 12yo out there, hovering around £35, which puts it a fiver or so above a lot of other 10-12yo distillery standards. But it’s worth the extra. This is one of my go-to whiskies, either to share or if I see it in the pub.
As for Coal Ila itself. Well it’s on Islay and it looks fantastic (as all Islay distilleries do). But it’s owned by Diageo (big business - boo!) and the whisky itself is probably matured off Islay itself (as its stablemate Lagavulin is). It doesn’t do much to endear itself in terms of promotion, although some might argue that they don’t hide behind marketing and mission statements. But what can I say, the whisky is amazing. It might not be the most romantic and as much as we all love independent distilleries this really is one of the best.