Color: the golden yellow of a pilsener with the slightest reddish influence of the red wine cask, but not an amber.
Nose: moderately smoky with a hint of medicinal iodine, bursting with fresh summer and citrus fruits and herbs. The dry, crisp and gentle nature of the sweetness of Moscatel Sherry is the star on the nose and makes one curious what it will do to the palate. When nosing the whisky, there is no alcohol influence, even when getting a big snootful without opening the mouth. (The great alcohol moderator when nosing any wine or spirit is opening one's mouth while inhaling through one's nose).
Palate: exactly what was promised in the nose, a complex combination of a classically peated Islay malt, ripe with fresh summery fruits like peaches and melon on top of gentle spice and oak, with a little bit of citrus that somehow makes it to the back of the tongue. The complexity here, and I am abundantly aware of the internally contradictory nature of this statement, is in the moderate flavors that come in such a big package; this is a big whisky, yet not in your face like many Islays. The medicinal, iodine-like flavor is in here, as are the peat and herbs (like a window garden grown by your mom, to flavor dinner pinch by pinch); the gentle sweetness that comes with a non Olorosso or PX cask, adds tremendously to the whisky's flavor. The level of sweetness isn't covering the opposite flavors of the phenols, a critique sometimes leveled at many expressions of peated whisky producers. However, no flavor is strongly dominating any other, let alone overwhelming the whisky as is often the criticism of peated Islay whiskies by those who are not big peat fans.
Finish: reasonably long, with the peat, citrus zest and Sherry finish lingering nicely, gently clinging to the tongue, ending with a spicy hint of anise and malt.
The Caol Ila is one of my favorite Islay distilleries. Their use of peat without creating a peaty beast is what I've always admired, starting with my first sampling of Caol Ila 12 Years Aged about 25years ago. This whisky is a must taste if you have any appreciation at all for whiskies that have a peaty influence in the malt. The flavors are just wonderful, full and well balanced: fruity, sweet, crisp, peaty and dry, without feeling like you've been a bad child at Xmas given neither a lump of coal nor a sugary candy treat. The modest 43% ABV is just strong enough to get across all the flavors the distillers want us to appreciate. (For any new readers, I'm a big believer that all whiskies should be at least 46% ABV and can only think this whisky would be even better with a tad less dilution).