To be honest: It is hard to choose a winner out of the two as both are great drams. In doubt I go for the underdog Inchmoan that somehow combines the best of the modern Caol Ila and the old Port Ellen profiles. I wonder if this was a one-off from Loch Lomond Group or if they have more of such delicious stuff in their warehouses. If so, release it within a reasonable period to establish a new high quality reputation of these (unfortunately) rather low profile drams. I would love to taste more of these...
The colour of the LL is yellow gold while the CI is old gold (but remember: Diageo usually adds caramel to adjust the colour). The texture of the LL shows fat sticky tears that very late build very low legs. The CI shows slow legs and late fat sticky tears.
Please let both drams breathe for some time. The LL's nose is surprisingly smokey of cold bonfires and tobacco ashes, really flabbergasting for a lowland whisky. It adds powerful malty flavours to this (as if you sniff freshly malted barley from Port Ellen Maltings, great!). Quite complex and interesting to expore, especially the powerful peat-barley combo. The CI offers a complex herbal-peaty profile with tons of cold fireplace ashes and some spicy wooden notes. Actually, I go for a draw on that dimension.
The LL offers a complex and truly multi-layered taste of sweet (honey, barley sugary, liquorice), peaty and fruity (green apples, pears and the like) flavours together with unusual earthy, mineral and farmyard notes. One to explore for hours and still you find new flavours. I like it even better than the first time (okay, I have more than one dram to explore it in detail, now - what makes a huge difference). The CI is more sweet than the LL but a little less complex. I know it sounds "engineered" but this is another draw, again. I swear to be honest, may all the whisky gods be my witness! Water is not needed on both drams - they are perfect just as they are! But if you have more than just a little sample at your hands try them reduced, too, as I can imagine that some connoisseurs might prefer this.
The LL arrives on the palate just as the texture promised: instantly it coats the mouth and sticks at it without any distracting moment (neither hot nor astringent nor drying). The CI covers the mouth too, immediately and shows no distracting moment either. I go for another draw (isn't this surprising?). The finish of the LL is very long on mainly (delicious) peaty flavours in a nice sweet and spicy containment, all very balanced. Not a single flaw or distracting feeling here, bottled exactly at the right time! The CI shows a little astringent feeling (too much ashes) so I can declare a winner, finally, and it is the Inchmoan (but just by a nuance).