When I visited Islay a couple of years back I didn't make an attempt to visit the Caol Ila distillery. Instead I stuck to whisky producers in the south of the famed island - Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and slightly further north, Bowmore.
But having just launched into a bottle of the immaculate Caol Ila 12-year-old expression I will be correcting that situation as soon as this crazy pandemic and my wife allow.
Caol Ila (pronounced Cull-eela) is a magnificent drop, and quite distinct from the other awesome Islay whiskies.
Your first contact with the whisky - the smell or nose - is like being caressed by a fresh, salty sea breeze. Which is not really surprising considering the distillery's position on the north-eastern shores of Islay facing the Sound of Islay (Caol Ile in Gaelic).
The follow up is even better. Of course, it is peaty but it is quite light in flavour and blends beautifully with sea-air salty, aniseed hints and the sweetness of dried fruit. I know I'm sounding like a complete tosser, but that's what great whisky can do to you.
At least I'm not as overblown as the Caol Ila proprietors, who describe the whisky like so: "The 12 year old is as rounded and clear as the shapes of the still-room, glimpsed by hazy shafts of sunlight glancing through the morning cloud". Yeah, right!
All, I really know, is Caol Ila was the perfect whisky to combine with a couple of pieces of tasty Tasmanian shortbread. The strange match seemed to bring out the sweetness in the whisky, so much so that I tested the combination again, with the same result. Unfortunately, all the Tassie shortbread has gone now, and I didn't get the same effect with Arnott's Lemon Crisp bikkies. Back to the drawing board.
Caol Ila 12 year old is not cheap in Australia - my wife bought me the current bottle as a birthday present for $115 - but it is surely worth it.