Caol Ila has one of the prettiest locations in Islay; nestled on the east coast looking out across the Sound of Islay to Jura, even in the full swing of an open day there’s a peace and tranquility to the place.
The distillery itself is, in parts, beautiful too. The great copper stills sit in a large distillation hall with glass walls, looking out to the ocean – if it weren’t for the industrial concrete block they backed onto, it would be a perfect sight.
The open day itself had a lot in common with Lagavulin, perhaps unsurprising given the fact that they’re Diageo brothers. They had the heavenly seafood shack that’s following us around the island, they had tastings of a couple of their expressions – the 12 year old and the Distillers Edition, again – and if you’d managed to book in time they had more interesting tutored tastings available too.
We were blessed with another wonderful weather day. Islay always seems to be sunny when we’re here, or at least it keeps the rain and the wind to the night time. And it was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon, sipping fine whisky – Caol Ila may not be my number one whisky these days, but it’s still right up there – enjoying the sunshine and the views, but it felt more like an illicit picnic outside the distillery than an actual event.
Just as whisky is about more than just the taste, distillery open days should be about more than just letting you into the grounds. caol Ila gave us a nice enough afternoon, but we didn’t really get to see it’s soul.