The original Caol Ila distillery was built in 1846, but the current distillery has only been around since the 1970's. It overlooks the sound between Islay and Jura, and is currently owned by global spirits-giant Diageo. Although not the most widely known Islay single malt, Caol Ila is highly regarded by critics and connoisseurs and is actually a decent value at around $60 per bottle.
Color: Caol Ila is a relatively light whisky in terms of flavor, proof (86), and color, and you're clued-in to this right away by the pale, yellow-straw hue as you pour it into the glass. Based on color you'd guess that it is younger than its 12 Year age statement, but nosing and tasting it will renew your faith in its age.
Nose: The nose on Caol Ila is very powerful, but not quite as dominating as some other Islay malts - it's still\ a serious Islay whisky, but turned down just one notch so that you can hear what's going on behind the peat. There are notes of damp, muddy grass, hints of honey, leather and springtime rain. The peat is out front, but plays well with the other aromas, especially as the drink sits for a bit.
Flavor: Caol Ila is a light, clean tasting single-malt. The flavors are mostly peaty and smoky, but I also taste buttered corn, honey, some oaky-tannins, and a bit of sweet malt. It's a relatively simple-tasting whiskey, but it's very well balanced and enjoyable, even a bit refreshing which isn't what you expect in an Islay whisky.
Finish: The peat flavors linger for a while along with cinnamon and spice later in the finish. Overall the finish is very long and this whisky is at its best towards the final fade-away, encouraging you to take that next sip and start the process all over again.