Poured a measure of each into separate glasses. Caol Ila is distinctly lighter in colour; since it is aged entirely in sherry casks and contains no added colour, I have to assume that Lagavulin has added colour.
Caol Ila has a dry, ashen smokiness as well as deep peat in the aroma. Sweetness is evident, almost like cherry candies.
Lagavulin, surprisingly, offers more citrus. And a distinct aroma of sour apple. Of the two, Caol Ila smells peatier and more medicinal. Also it is a bit sharper to the nose.
Mmm. Caol Ila gives you an ashy flavour overtop earthen peat. The sweetness is subtle and sort of slides underneath all the smoky peat flavours. I don't get a strong sherry impression from this, which is interesting because the bottle states first-fill and refill sherry casks for aging. It finishes with smoke and little else.
Lagavulin: wow, still can't get over the sour apples on the nose. The flavour seems more complete; definitely less smoke than Caol Ila, still a good dose of peat but the sweet and sour apple is right alongside it and carries through to the finish.
A second nosing reveals some slightly tarry aromas in Caol Ila. It matches the existing fireplace smells. The sweetness has a powdered feel on the nose, like icing sugar.
In Lagavulin, the apple notes have faded. An oilier peat smell now. A big explosion of peat on the palate. Funny, though, how Lagavulin almost seems subtle compared to Caol Ila.
So which one do I like better? Hard to say. I lean toward Lagavulin as it seems to possess better balance, more of a long, chewy, lip-smacking flavour. Also it has more going on in the finish.
But Caol Ila gives more attack, also with a good balancing sweetness. This is a tough call. Suffice to say that both are excellent whiskies, and neither is particularly cheap, at $90 and $110 respectively.
Another tasting: Caol Ila really masks the smoke in Lagavulin. In any case, an interesting combination. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that Lagavulin has more maritime flavours whereas Caol Ila is smokier.
Collector57 wrote:I have read elsewhere that Connoisseurs Choice range all has caramel added to achieve a similar colour but I don't believe that.
I can see where some might ascribe to the theory that G&M's CC range utilizes colour correction prior to bottling, as the firm does hold considerable maturing stocks of various malts and does, often, bottle large quantities of a particular expression. Furthermore, I myself have wondered, on occasion, whether some CC bottlings I've tasted might have been colour corrected. But this is no simple matter to state with absolute certainty, as it can be very difficult (even for an experienced palate) to differentiate between the specific taste E150 brings to a whisky's flavour spectrum and other 'naturally' occuring tastes.
irishwhiskeychaser wrote:Also it is worth bearing in mind that just because something says sherry or bourbon cask does not actually mean you can guarentee a correct guess by colour. Some single sherry cask IB's can often be second fill (or later) and eventhough alot of them state this it may not always be the case and you may find that the colour of a sherry cask is very yellow quite like a bourbon cask. Conversly (even though quite rare) a highly toasted bourbon cask can give a very deep brown colour looking more like a sherry cask.
Just to add a little to IWC's excellent point... You also need to consider the wide variety of Sherry casks available (sweet or dry Oloroso - the most common two, Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximenez, etc.) as well as the various char grades (1 through 4) used for Bourbon casks. When you combine these choices with (as IWC has already stated) the 1st, 2nd and 'further fill' variations, you can end up with a tremendously broad range of wood influences and hues.
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