Whisky and Words Number 40: Caol Ila Moch

This is my wife’s ‘so good I had to bring it home’ whisky from our trip to Islay. It was an offering of our post-tour tasting. Being a big Caol Ila fan, my wife really took to it. Maybe because (besides Caol Ila 12) she tends to prefer more civilized stuff like Glenmorangie, and the Moch is presumably a dialed-back Caol Ila. But is it? Let’s find out…

A sunny day, a light straw color and cookies. Not a bad combination.

This expression is another NAS whisky – no age statement. Since my last screed on NAS whiskies, I have reviewed a couple more and liked them. NAS whiskies can be good and bad, and all over the map as far as price. I do not remember what we paid for the Moch, but on Master of Malt it’s about $55, a pretty moderate price for a special expression.

I like to start with what the company says about its product. The box proclaims this spirit is “Soft, smooth clean and fresh…the dawn of a new day.” An odd way of introducing a whisky, sounds like the ad for a bar of soap. For this whisky in particular I find the marketing understated (for a change). This is a spirit that makes its presence known immediately on the bottle being opened. It won’t clear a room like Laphroaig but the peat and seaweed produce a lively bouquet. A better image might be ‘a breath of sea air’ but they called it Moch (‘dawn’ in Gaelic) so we get the ‘dawn’ thing.

Moch, it likes sunshine

So how does it stack up against the Caol Ila 12-year expression ($62 locally)? The color is half a shade lighter. That’s of little importance. The nose on the 12 is gentler—the Moch definitely stings if you get your schnozz inside the Glencairn glass. The twelve’s nose has more midrange toffee notes where the Moch has the grassier notes of a younger whisky. The 12’s palate is similarly less rice-candy sweet, delivering more toffee and vanilla with less of the spiciness of the Moch. The Moch is livelier, for sure, but not in a bad way. The effect is much the same as the Highland Park Magnus and in fact I could almost take what I said about the Magnus word-for-word to describe how the Caol Ila 12 compares to the  Moch: “The 12 has a deeper nose, more caramel, vanilla and smoke.” That’s all true. But the Moch brings fruity and grassy flavors to the fore which probably have been aged out of the 12-year-old.

Caol Ila Moch (NAS), Island (Skye) single malt 43% ABV

Nose: Subtle peat makes itself known as soon as the bottle is opened. A closer inspection finds not only peat and seaweed but also prunes, fresh-cut grass and a touch of roses. I find apple tucked in between the rose and the prune.
Palate: The initial impression is sweetness, but not overpowering: lightly sweet like Botan rice candy.  The front of the tongue is rewarded with oaky spice while the mid-tongue is spicy-medicinal. I find it a little more Listerine-like than the 12-year old.
Finish: The finish is pretty long with the oak mostly evident in tannins, which balance the fading Botan rice candy sweetness. The peat goes along for the ride, a warming accompaniment. The medicinal quality stays with you but not as long as the peat. Nicely constructed finish.

Bottom Line: This is a worthy addition to the line and if Master of Malt can be relied on, it’s within $5 of the 12’s price. Frankly this is going to come down to whether you like a lively whisky, and if you like Caol Ila’s take on the Islay style. I happen to like medicinal whiskies and I would buy the Moch again (assuming the wife gives me any choice in the matter!)

Author: H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.

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