Brethren, I spake not lightly when I say that the cask strength Caol Ila is the first whisky to hurt me, both emotionally and physically. It is with no hesitation that I confirm this brutal copkiller of a dram into a list that sports Chuck Norris’s roundhouse kick as its sole entry. Consume this one in a padded room. Like Chuck, this dram will go through you faster than you can say ‘Kevlar hip flask’.
Upon first contact with the Devil’s dram, I was immediately compelled to undertake a half marathon in the hope that I could outrun the knowledge of what I had done. Visually, this whisky has the stern, wisened look of an American character actor. A rich mahogany tone masks the true darkness beneath the cork. For the better part of a week after my initial tasting, the skin was flayed from roof of my mouth, like Islay’s own version of Mason Verger.
I’ve been looking forward to this. Islay malts have all the clinical precision of an operating theatre and it’s time to scrub in. My hands go numb immediately. A thin white plume of smoke appears. I should get out and stay out, but I’m not ready to surrender. A distant bonfire on the beach makes way for woollen mittens and carrot-nosed snowmen. Jurassic-era amber flows over the tongue. I want to live forever. Like only the most surprising Revels, the centre is filled with sugary orange peel, sweet caramel, and coffee. A sharp right turn for hot dogs soaked in brine and I’m slapped back to consciousness by a whiff of soapy zest.
Bottled straight from the cask at 61.6% vol, I can safely conclude that more than half of this sucker is nuclear. Indeed, it’s so peaty that both Peter Duncan and Peter Simon will threaten to return to mainstream television before the tasting concludes. A sudden dash of pepper. A day old Peperami. In no time, i’m into the lemon meringue finish, crying with laughter as I bat my arms through great fluffy clouds of burnt sugar. There are still a few surprises left however: that Malibu Barbie that was always out of stock. Creosote. Treacle toffee. Four hours in a sweat lodge in Wyoming. Castor oil. Motor oil. The war on terror. A cinnamon breeze blows through the finish and I’m running my hands through a barley field, heading toward a yellow sunset as Hans Zimmer provides the soundtrack.
This dram does it all. It clunk-clicks life’s seatbelt into place and then takes the corner on two wheels. It melts down your fillings, makes an idol that you must worship and then punishes you for vanity. It shows you that everybody is equal then asks you to rank the guy that bottled it.
This is a special whisky and you owe it to the baby Jesus to spend Christmas without a soft palette. This right here is the father, the son and the full proof spirit and it has all the miracles you need. Forget chocolate coins. You don’t need any Lynx Oriental shower gel. Caol Ila will fill your stocking and Santa will die at the foot of your bed. This drink will comb your hair before you go to midnight mass and it will force you to sing all of the carols backwards, in Latin.
Yes, this drink knows you better than you know yourself. It is quietly waiting for you. There is no other option for you now. It knows when you’ve been sleeping and it knows when you’re on Christmas break. Take up a weapon and stand at post. Caol Ila Cask Strength is coming to town.