The Caol Ila distillery on the Isle of Islay, Scotland is renowned for its extraordinary Scotch whiskies. Of all their offerings, the 12-year-old and Moch expressions are two single malts that often come to mind first due to their similarities in origin and process. As a result, these two popular whiskies are constantly compared and debated among Islay whisky fans worldwide.
If you’re looking for two of Islay’s finest whiskies, then look no further than the Caol Ila 12 and Moch. We’ll compare these highly praised expressions by exploring their flavour characteristics, production processes, and pricing to determine which one better suits your needs. So let’s dive in.
How to say Caol Ila = “cull-eela”
Caol Ila 12 vs Caol Ila Moch: History
The distillery was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson, who purchased the lease to the site from the local landowner, Lord Margadale. Henderson was previously involved in the whisky trade in Rothesay.
The first spirit came off the stills in 1848. The distillery was initially named “Lagavulin Distillery”, but it was soon changed to “Caol Ila”, which is Gaelic for “Sound of Islay”.
The distillery was later sold to Bulloch Lade & Co in 1877 and passed through various owners until it was bought by Diageo in 1927.
Caol Ila underwent a complete renovation in the 1990s, with a new stillhouse built in place of the outdated one. In the early 2000s, a visitor centre opened, and in 2008, a new bottling facility was constructed. In 2011, the distillery underwent a major upgrade, increasing its capacity from 3 1/2 million liters of single malt produced yearly to an impressive 6 1/2 million liters, making it the biggest whisky producer on Islay.
The distillery produces a wide range of single malts, including the 12-year-old, 18-year-old, and 25-year-old, as well as several special releases, like the: Caol Ila distillers edition and Caol Ila Moch.
The Moch was first made available to the Friends of the Classic Malts, a Diageo fan club, in 2012 as a limited-edition release before being made available to the general public, whereas the Caol Ila 12 was released 10 years earlier in June of 2002.
The distillery has also released several limited editions, including the 25-year-old “The Distiller’s Edition” and the 30-year-old “The 1973 Single Cask”.
A not so hidden distillery
A blended Scotch label indicates that it is a blend of malt and grain whiskies from various distilleries, blended to create a more consistent flavour than single malts, which can vary between bottles, an example for this is Johnnie Walker.
Distilleries that primarily produce single malt whisky for blends and do not generally release their own whisky to the public are referred to as “hidden distilleries.”
Caol Ila stands out in the scotch whisky industry due to its dual role as a hidden distillery and a recognizable brand. Almost 95% of the whisky produced at Caol Ila is used in Johnnie Walker’s blends, particularly in Johnnie Walker Black and Double Black. The whisky made by Caol Ila not only adds a light smoke flavour to the Johnnie Walker Black, but its herbal notes make it a favourable components for cocktails, binding the sweet and strong elements together.
The remaining 5% of their whisky is what we know as Caol Ila.
Making Caol Ila whisky
In order to keep pace with demand, Caol Ila has modernised many elements of their facility whilst retaining as much of their traditional methods as possible, such as hand-cut peat, slow-dried barley, and long-lasting copper stills. Resultantly, the distillation process for both the 12yo and the Moch whiskies is almost the same.
Getting their grain
Caol Ila source their grain from Port Ellen Maltings, also located on Islay. There, they take raw barely and pass it through a three-stage process involving soaking, germination and then drying it with peat fires to impart the classic Islay smokiness. Once fully malted, the grain is then delivered to the Caol Ila Distillery.
Malted grain is broken down in a mill, separating the barley into three components: husk, grits, and flour. Each of these parts—collectively known as grist—is essential for mashing. Milling helps to unleash carbohydrate-rich enzymes found within husks and grains; it divides the malted grain into precisely 70% husk, 20% grits, and 10% flour–a ratio vital for the next stage.
Once ground, the malt is placed in a large cylindrical tank called a mash tun, in which warm water is added to activate the enzymes naturally found in the husk. These enzymes deteriorate the grist, converting it from carbohydrates to fermentable sugar. In the mash tun, different temperatures of water are added at different stages to help fully extract the fermentable sugars.
The sugary liquid drained from the mash tun is known as “wort” which is then transferred to fermentation washback tanks. There, a small portion of distillers yeast is added which initiates the fermentation stage. Lasting between 55-60 hours, the yeast culture feeds on the sugars within the wort, converting them to alcohol. This produces a basic type of beer with an ABV of around 7%, containing fruity floral flavours. This liquid is often called the “wash” is ready for distillation.
In one of Caol Ila’s three copper wash stills, the wash is slowly heated until it begins to boil. As alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, it evaporates and rises up the still neck where it exits the top via a pipe. The vapours are then cooled, condensed and collected as a 30% ABV liquid known as low wines.
To refine the low wines into a spirit, the liquid is transferred to a smaller, second pot still called a spirit still. Again, the alcohol is heated until vapours rise out the top of the still, this time much stronger at around 70% ABV. Once condensed and cool, this is the final distillate called new make spirit.
The new make spirit is then transferred to a mixture of former Bourbon and Sherry casks, where they are stored and temperature controlled to achieve the precise flavour that Caol Ila is looking for. These barrels have been re-toasted to impart a rich and complex flavour profile with notes of smoke, dried fruit, honey, and a hint of sea salt.
95% of the whisky put into these casks will be used for Johnnie Walker blended whisky, with the remaining 5% being used to bottle Caol Ila’s branded releases.
The difference between Caol Ila 12 and Caol Ila Moch is that the Moch is the first single malt from the distillery to be selected entirely based on its taste, rather than age, cask wood, strength, or finish.
Caol Ila 12 tasting notes
Fresh, herbal. Rubbed peppermint leaves, damp grass, stemmy, smoky. Oily, cigar leaves, hickory, smoked ham. Lemon peels at the harbor.
Good body, oily, tar, elegant smoke. Hints of boiled sweets.
Long, peppery, spicy warmth.
$57 / £47
Caol Ila 12 review
Flavour profile of Caol Ila 12
Caol Ila 12 shows the distillery’s commitment to quality and traditional processes, as it was aged in American oak barrels formerly containing bourbon whisky and ex-Sherry casks prior to being bottled.
The nose of Caol Ila 12 is a complex blend of smoky, sweet, and spicy aromas. The smokiness is unmistakable, with notes of wood smoke, peat, and a hint of salt. Underneath this, there are sweet notes of dried fruit, toffee, and vanilla. The palate is full of flavour, with sweet and salty notes. The smoke is dominant, with a hint of toasted malt and a touch of spice. The finish is long and spicy, with a lingering sweetness.
It has a strong, smoky flavour with hints of seaweed, salt, and pepper, which makes it a great pairing for a variety of foods. Seafood is a classic pairing for Scotch whisky, and the Caol Ila 12 is no exception. The smokiness of the whisky enhances the flavour of the seafood, while the briny flavour of the fish brings out the subtle sweetness of the whisky. Grilled salmon, oysters, and shellfish are all good options. To make the pairing even better, try pairing the whisky with a side of roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables.
Cheese is also an excellent companion to the Caol Ila 12. It pairs perfectly with the creaminess of the cheese. Aged cheddar, blue cheese, and gouda are all good options. For an even richer pairing, try the whisky with a wedge of brie or camembert.
It’s important to keep in mind that these are just a few suggestions, and the best food pairing for Caol Ila 12 will depend on personal preference. Experimenting with different pairings can be a fun and delicious way to enjoy this whisky.
The extended aging of Caol Ila 12 results in higher levels of phenols, adding more body and flavour to the whisky without overwhelming the delicate flavours created during distillation.
For those seeking an Islay single malt that is not excessively peated, Caol Ila 12 is an excellent option. It offers a one-of-a-kind taste experience, with a pleasant combination of sweetness and smokiness, along with a variety of intense and intricate flavours.
Caol Ila Moch tasting notes
Lemon sherbet and apple crumble, topped with creamy custard, dry grass without a single hint of smoke
This dessert-like dram has a delightfully soft mouthfeel that is complemented by the sweet notes of lemon meringue pie. A gentle smokiness from the peat emerges in the mid-palate, more reminiscent of soothing wood smoke than burning tires. The sweetness lingers throughout for a truly enjoyable experience.
Soft drying smoke.
$58 / £48
Caol Ila Moch Review: Nose Taste Finish
Flavour profile of Caol Ila Moch
The Gaelic word for dawn, “Moch”, is the inspiration for Caol Ila’s latest release, a lighter expression than their renowned 12 year old. Caol Ila Moch price is a bit more pricey than the 12-year-old at: $68 / £56.95.
On the nose, inviting aromas of smoky peat, sweet vanilla and honey emit from Caol Ila Moch. On the palate, smooth caramel, toffee and oak are complimented by subtle fruit flavours as well as dark chocolate nuances. The finish is dry with slight smoke lingering along with oaky spice notes that will remain on your tongue for hours after sipping this exquisite Scotch whisky.
The powerfully robust flavour of Caol Ila Moch makes it an ideal selection for whisky connoisseurs who appreciate a bolder taste. The sweetness brought by the ex-bourbon casks adds depth, as well as hints of fruit and dark chocolate – making this versatile whisky perfect to enjoy neat, with water or even in a cocktail.
The Caol Ila Moch is a whisky worth savouring, boasting an age that ranges between 8-12 years. This bold and flavourful Scotch offers a unique balance of smokiness and sweetness that will surely leave you with a lasting impression. Whether neat or in your favourite cocktail, the Caol Ila Moch should not be overlooked by any aficionado.
The rustic, smoky flavours of Caol Ila Moch whisky pair excellently with grilled steak, providing a delightful contrast between the richness and peaty notes. Complemented by mashed potatoes’ buttery goodness, this classic pairing is sure to satisfy any palate. Another indulgent option that goes superbly with the whisky’s bold taste – is barbecue! The smokiness from both dishes will create an unforgettable flavour combination when combined alongside sides such as coleslaw and cornbread for added balance.
To complete the Scottish experience, try a serving of smoked salmon. The beautiful flavour will be enhanced by the whisky’s smoky character and is certain to make for an exquisite pairing. Serve this masterpiece alongside roasted potatoes and an uncomplicated green salad for a unique taste that you won’t soon forget!
These are just a few of Caol Ila Moch’s finest dishes – its bold nature guarantees it’ll take any meal up several notches in deliciousness.
|Caol Ila 12 vs Caol Ila Moch||Coal Ila 12||Caol Ila Moch|
|Colour||Pale Straw||Pale Gold|
|Nose||Fresh, herbal. Rubbed peppermint leaves, stemmy, damp grass, smoky. Oily, cigar leaves, smoked ham, hickory. Lemon peels at the harbor.||Lemon sherbet and apple crumble, topped with creamy custard, dry grass without a single hint of smoke|
|Palate||Good body, oily, tar, elegant smoke. Hints of boiled sweets.||Dessert-like dram, soft mouthfeel that is complemented by the sweet notes of lemon meringue pie.Gentle smokiness.|
|Finish||Long, peppery, spicy warmth, smoke.||Soft drying smoke.|
|Age||12||usually between 8-12|
|Classification||Single Malt||Single Malt|
|Cask||American and European||European|
|Price||$57 / £46.95||$68 / £56.95|
Final thoughts on Caol Ila 12 vs Caol Ila Moch
When it comes to Caol Ila 12 vs Caol Ila Moch, there is no clear winner. Both are excellent single malt Scotches that offer an enjoyable experience.
The Caol Ila 12 and Caol Ila Moch are both excellent single malt whiskies that can be enjoyed in different ways, depending on your taste.
When it comes to choosing between these two whiskies, it really comes down to personal preference. Neither is superior to the other; rather, each offers its own unique flavour experience depending on what you’re looking for in terms of taste and aroma. If you’re looking for something more complex and full-bodied with deep flavours, then the 12-year-old would be your best bet. On the other hand, if you are seeking something sweeter with more subtle notes, then the Moch would be worth trying
Both whiskies offer an enjoyable drinking experience that can easily be enjoyed neat or mixed into various cocktails. Ultimately, when deciding between Caol Ila 12 vs Caol Ila Moch there is no wrong answer – both are excellent options that offer unparalleled quality and flavour profiles sure to please any whisky connoisseur.
The Caol Ila 12 is a great, classic single malt full of smoky, peaty flavours, while the Moch is a slightly sweeter, softer version that still retains some of the classic Caol Ila flavours. Both are excellent, and it really comes down to personal preference when deciding which to choose.
For us, it’s the Caol Ila 12 as we’re a real smoky, peat lover when it comes to choosing a whisky!