[August, 2019] After an interesting old versus new head-to-head of the standard 18-years old Caol Ila edition that resulted in significant differences (3 points) I decided to do the same with the 12-years old standard edition. It is a head-to-head of the 2018 release (NEW, WB id 120834) versus this first ever bottling from 2002 (OLD, there is neither a Classic Malts logo nor a www.malts.com reference on the back label)...
...and the differences between these two are again significant. OLD is a typical old Traditional Scotch dram (distillate-driven, more complex, balanced all the time) while NEW shows elements of the modern whisky style already (much more wood-driven which leads to an imbalace during the finish, less complex). Guess what I prefer (by two points)?
The colour of OLD is two shades darker at old gold than NEW which is at jonquiripe corn (despite they used caramel on NEW). The nose of OLD offers a balanced sweet-peaty pofile with honeys, ripe yellow fruits, barley sugars and maritime-peaty aromas. The smoke grows stronger upon breathing without harming the balance as additional waxy and autumn floral notes join in as well. A pretty fine nose for a 12-years old, indeed1 NEW offers a quite different profile with shy unripe green fruits, more sugars and a different smokey impression (no maritime notes, rather like a cold bonfire). It is balanced too with more wood impact, but much simplier than OLD. I clearly prefer the nose from 2002.
The taste of OLD is quite bold on delicious sweet flavours over fine peat smoke notes. The fruits are present all the time as are the barley sugars, later some waxes and meaty notes (smoked bacon) join in. It is not very complex but it is a tasty mix, easy to quaff. NEW's taste is much more wood-driven with sweet barley sugars balancing the bitter tannins nicely. It is easy drinkble too but a complete different style. Again I prefer OLD clearly.
OLD arrives warming and instantly coating on the palate without distracting moments. The initial mouthfeel of NEW is warming and coating too but a little less impressive with a minor bitter-astringent moment (tannins at work). Both drams own a long finish where OLD adds some spices and herbal impressions without distracting moments at all. NEW turns more bitter during the finish with a drying mouthfeel, now the tannins of the wood take control and drive NEW out of balance, unfortunately. Water is not needed on both.