Color: Pale straw, doesn't look like much. I hate flashy appearances anyway so who cares.
Nose: Beautiful balance of peat, smoke, sherry, apples, and cream. Nothing sticks out here, I'm pleasantly surprised by this. I was expecting a peat bomb but this is not it. Maybe the Bowmore has turned me to Islay for good.
Palate: Oh heavens, how gorgeous this is. I couldn't help but think of a good Riesling with sharp acidity wrapped in a sweet blanket. Someone once said a good champagne is like a sword wrapped in luxurious cream. This is the most "bubbly" Scotch I've ever had! Flavors I pick flavors like raisin, white wine like flavors-Alsace comes to mind for some reason, and smoky peat. This Scotch is very "fresh". Very nice.
Finish: Medium yet crisp, there's a "zip" I had mentioned I was looking for and this has it. I get a bacon fat flavor on the finish. While the Bowmore 12 is more "full", it's a bit boring compared to the Caol Ila. It's like you're waiting for something to happen and it never does. Not so with the Caol Ila! I like them both though, they both have interesting aspects to them.
I think I love Islay, if I try to drink my beloved Glenlivet 12 I'm bored to death now. What would be a step up from Caol Ila? Lagavulin? Ardbeg?
Thanks for all your suggestions everyone, they're much appreciated!
Interestingly and similarly to yourself, I now find Bowmores disappointing as well as most Speysides - they lack something.
The 1979 25yo is certainly worth trying, beware of plenty attack which surprised me. I haven't got around to trying the 1978 yet.
A step up from Caol Ila? For me Caol Ila is pretty much at the top - yes the Lagavulins Ardbegs are exceptional, need to be tasted and in most cases have more to offer but are not as enjoyable or as easy drinking as Caol Ila 12 or CS. Port Askaig has a similar flavour profile. If anything is a step up I would have to say Port Ellen.
If you're looking for a no-holds-barred Islay flavour thrust, then the cask strengths (such as the Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig) will definitely provide some additional fireworks for your palate, with the last-mentioned probably offering the greatest counterbalancing sweetness owing to its rather pronounced vanilla-laced overtones. I find the CS Caol Ila the driest of the three... But what a wonderfully appetizing whisky it is!
edit - Ardbeg is quite a step up in the sharp citrus/peat flavour profile from Caol Ila, but it does follow a similar taste profile. The Lagavulin is a sherried malt so will taste quite a bit different.
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