Caol Ila 13 Year (2009) Adelphi Selection

ImpEx 2023 US Exclusive Release ⠀

This past September I attended one of the few ArdnAmerica tour tastings. We met both Carl Crafts and Connal Mackenzie who led us through a tasting of every Ardnamurchan and Adelphi bottle being released this year. Everything from the new blended whisky, Maclean’s Nose, to a wonderful 16-year-old ‘Breath of the Isles’.

Since I had already purchased my bottle of ArdnAmerica, I decided to take home my favorite of the night, a 14-year-old oloroso cask from Glen Elgin. My wife fell in love with this 13-year-old Caol Ila and so we left each with a bottle for ourselves. It was a fantastic evening and it was great to meet with the Adelphi and ImpEx crew!

Distillery: Caol Ila.

Bottler: Adelphi Selection.

Region/style: Islay.

ABV: 53.9%.

Age: 13 years. Distilled in 2009. Bottled in 2023.

Cask type:  Refill Ex-Bourbon Barrel. #314101.

Color: 1.1 Burnished. Natural Color. Non-chill-filtered.

Price: $130.

Tasting Notes

Tasted neat in a Glencairn with 20+ minutes of rest. Dilution was added for the second half of the tasting with an additional rest of upwards of an hour.

Nose: The nose starts with a very soft cherry note backed with plenty of vanilla. A tart but pleasant raspberry or underripe Bartlett pear comes out. Fresh hay bales. Herbal, leaning towards floral aromas. Raw ginger and spice aromatics of cardamom and ceylon cinnamon. A fantastic barrel char note that brings out a deep and robust vanilla. While lacking some of the familiar citrus notes of other Caol Ila’s, the acidity is there just not distinctly citrus. It’s bright but with a gentler touch. Mineral-rich peat with soil and briny quality, rich with Islay character. Adding just a few drops of water started to sweeten the nose. Marzipan, vanilla bean paste, fresh golden waffles. The floral notes started to fade but in its place a nutty quality of Almond meal or extract.

Palate: The first sip hits you with that rich barrel char. It’s one of my favorite flavors in malt and this barrel brings an almost maple syrup quality with it. The sugars however more resemble a vegetal sweetness of caramelized wild onions and sweet potatoes. I swear it’s not just lingering Thanksgiving flavors! Peat levels remain intense with the saline minerality I enjoy. Campfire, ash, and phenols right in your face. Butter cookies, oatmeal, and sweetened barley cereal. Each subsequent sip is better than the last. More sweetness develops on the palate, and more character emerges. Adding water confirms my vegetal sweetness notes. Cinnamon and sweet potato pie. The grains are more pronounced with a bit of malted chocolate flavor. There’s a touch more chili heat that reminds me of a molé sauce. Lastly, a bit of salty sea air notes with seaweed and fish oil.

Finish: Dark cocoa powder finish with even more barrel char flavors. This cask must have been a level 5 char. It’s not a dry finish but it binds to the floral hay notes and compliments them. Big flaky finishing salts over dark chocolate. A subtle perspiration on your upper lip on that abnormally warm fall day. Unfortunately, too short of a finish for my preferences. Adding water made the dram a touch more bitter and dryer. The oak becomes ever more dominant and I actually prefer this flavor quite a bit. It’s a bolder oak presence that brings a lovely barley sweetness with it. Along with the ash and ember flavors are faint tobacco and leather notes that I do enjoy.


Lovely dram and a wonderful ex-bourbon expression of Caol Ila. It’s not entirely what I expected, but it delivers most of what I enjoy about Caol Ila. From sweet grains to subtle savory notes, there’s a malted harmony with the cask that satisfies my palate.

Were it not for the finish, I might have scored this higher. The abrupt drop-off really stunted the experience for me. I had expected a lingering savory flavor or possibly notes from the charred oak cask. That crescendo dies far too short.

I also realize that not everyone enjoys the savory elements in their whisky and for that alone, I recommend trying before you buy. If you’re a fan of Ledaig, this bottle is perfect for you.

Final Score: 83