SMWS 53.233 Fireman’s Gloves on a Mermaid (19 year old Caol Ila)


This is from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s outrun from last month, just like the fantastic Ledaig I reviewed not too long ago. I really love my heavily peated whiskies and the SMWS ones are really the pinnacle of quality when it comes to that. This is the first Caol Ila I’ll be trying from them. Caol Ila is not one of my goto distilleries (for peat that honour goes to Laphroaig and Ledaig), but it has a nice character to it, especially when it’s been aged a little.

The name already hints that we’ll be getting something very smoky and with a lot of maritime notes. Here’s its little story:

Our noses found nutty, leathery, woody smoke – bonfires from first touch to dying embers – fireman’s gloves after a hard shift; then we got medicinal stuff (first-aid box, bandages, Savlon) and finally fish boxes, shellfish, citrus and celery salt. The palate was a Wowee! hit of wood extract, tar, salted treacle scones and smoke (puffing a big cigar) – hints of fried bacon and salted cashews. The reduced nose was ‘salty as a mermaid in a rock-pool’ – salt-encrusted boat decks were also mentioned – and some savoury notes. The palate remained chewy and substantial – a candy floss of smoke and tar on a stick.

Aged 19 years. 60.5%ABV. Matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. No colourant added and non-chillfiltered. Bottled at cask strength from a single cask.

Nose: Ashy peat. Wood smoke from aromatic wood. Apple juice. Lavender. Rubber. Hay.

Palate: Thick. Oily. Brine. Seashells. Rubber. Sticky, syrupy notes, like the syrup from canned fruit salad, but much much thicker. Lemon juice. Hay.

Finish: Long. Candied lemon. Bit of sherry funk (minus all the other sherry flavours). Rubber. Freshly extinguished campfire. Bit of a chemical note, maybe carbolic soap.

Would I buy this: No

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 2/5

After the nose I was preparing myself for a bit of a let down, it was quite closed, nice but not complex. But then I took a sip and oh wow! The combination of the texture and tastes on this one was amazing. Huge, bold notes and gloriously thick, sticky but not cloying.

I still prefer the Ledaig a little overall, but this is a fine release as well.



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