Caol Ila Whisky Distillery

The Caol Ila Distillery gets its name from its location on the Island of Islay. Caol Ila, pronounced as 'kul-eela', is Gaelic for “Sound of Islay”. It nestles in a quiet isolated cove near Port Askaig, on the north-east corner of the island. Built in 1846 by Hector Henderson it has seen many changes in ownership but rarely stopped production. In 1857 the distillery was purchased by Bulloch Lade & Co. who rebuilt and expanded the distillery.

After several change of hands DCL took control of Caol Ila in 1927 and transferred it to SMD in 1930. The distillery was silent between 1930 and 1937 and had to close down during part of WWII as well. After the war, production continued smoothly and the distillery was rebuilt and extended from two to six stills between 1972 and 1974. It was entirely rebuilt in its original style of architecture and only the original warehouses which were filled with maturing whisky remain.

The distillery now has three large lantern shaped wash and three spirit stills and the whisky is used mostly to meet the demand of blenders. Production resumed in 1974 and the distillery stopped floor maltings and began to buy their malt from the Port Ellen maltings. The water used in production as always came from the peaty Loch Nam Ban which is about a mile away from the distillery. Its water flows through neighboring fields and arrives at a waterfall near the distillery.

Connoisseurs of this Islay Malt can differentiate between the heavier Caol Ila whisky that was produced before 1972 and the lighter, cleaner whisky that has been distilled at Caol Ila after the expansion of the distillery in 1974. It could be because of the change in the distillery or the source of malt. The Caol Ila Distillery became part of the United Distillers Group in 1986. UDV is itself now a part of Diageo.

Caol Ila Single Malt is considered to be one of the lighter of the Islay Malts. It is generally medium bodied with a rounded flavor. It usually has a pale color with a greenish tinge. Caol Ila malt has a peaty aroma with distinct floral notes.

In the mid-eighties Caol Ila introduced an unusual new whisky for blenders which was an unpeated malt whisky known as Caol Ila Highland. The first semi-official bottling was released in1989 in the ‘Fauna & Flora’ range. The current core range of 12 Years Old, 18 Years Old and Cask Strength were first released in the early years of the 21st century and have been described as sweet and peaty on the palate. The 18 Years Old is light and dry while the Caol Ila 15 Years Old 1969 has more character and depth.

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