Day Twelve in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

Caol Ila 12yr is a very special Islay whisky. It has a completely different kind of smoky flavor than the instantly recognizable Laphroig or Lagavulin, and they’re only recently accessible by the outside world.


Caol Ila is Islay’s largest distillery. It’s on the side of Islay facing Isle of Jura, and up until recently used its whisky almost exclusively to supply other famous blends (like Johnnie Walker). It was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson, did poorly, and changed hands in 1854 when it was bought by the Jura Distillery. In 1863 it was acquired by whisky traders, Bulloch Lade & Co. It’s currently owned by Diageo.


First experiences involve salt and citrus mixed with a bit of olive oil.

The taste presents smoke heavy at first, but it’s a much lighter kind of smoke than Laphroig, Ardbeg or Lagavulin. I would definitely call it a “lighter” whisky and without questions the lightest of the Islay whiskies that I’ve tried.

Remember that I’m assuming you prefer smoke, and you’re not being overwhelmed by that dominate taste. It’s really well balanced out. Both sweetness and smoke. Like bacon wrapped dessert treats.

Now that I’ve written that, immediately I began thinking of bacon-maple donuts. Imagine if you took hickory-smoked bacon, and laid it in strips on the top of a maple donut. That is totally the flavor I get here.

Get some. It’s a reasonably affordable single malt for such a high quality taste.