[August, 2019] Tonight is the night to do a long-planned old versus new head-to-head of the standard Caol Ila edition, 2015 release (NEW, WB id 96997) 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 the two are really significant. Of course, both present the lovely Caol Ila DNA but OLD indeed offers a complex and bold old-stylish profile while NEW rather goes for the modern wood-driven whisky "zeitgeist" that is much more simple and (to me) rather boring. Do not get me wrong, still the new 18-years old Caol Ila is a nice dram to drink but its profile lacks a lot of personality compared to its 2002 sibling.
[June, 2021] I re-tasted this dram tonight and fully confirm my old review and score. What a difference to the newer batches, and by the way: Angus from whiskyfun scored a sample from this very bottle 90 points too.
The colour of OLD is one shade darker at old gold while NEW is at yellow gold (despite they use caramel to adjust it). The nose of the two drams is very different: Old offers a truly old-stylish profile with lots of nice OBFs , fruits, honeys, waxes, oils, herbs and significant maritime peaty aromas. This is the adorable sweet-peaty profile from the best years of Caol Ila (simply check the ratings of older vintage 1984 bottlings - 2002-18=1984). Contrary to OLD the NEW release shows much more bitter-herbal wooden notes but misses both the fruity-sweet and maritime flavours almost completely. What a difference!
The taste of OLD is layered and greatly chewable so it offers all its delicious flavours like in a parade. The sweet fruits and barley sugars, the maritime peaty notes , the spicy wooden flavours and many more impressions are in a perfect balance without any flaw. Great stuff to quaff! NEW's taste is not layered, unfortunately and dominated by bitter-peaty flavours with the sweet notes playing a minor role only. It gets rather drying-astringent over time - but again: still NEW is a fine dram that I like to drink. Nonetheless it is a three points difference to OLD.
The initial mouthfeel of NEW is warming and just a little coating without distracting moments while OLD arrives absolutely charming and instantly coats the whole of the mouth. Of course it shows no distracting moments either. OLD's finish is long and vanishes in several fading waves without any distracting moments again. All stays harmonic and balanced and the old-style waxes and earthy notes form a grand finale. The finish of NEW is shorter but still medium to long and stays on the bitter-astringent side (with additional eucalyptus notes, just like the end of the taste was). Again, this is enjoyable but a huge difference to the 2002 edition. Water is not recommended on NEW as it just flattens the dram. OLD is a better swimmer but still I like it best when neat.