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Bowmore 12 vs Caol Ila 12: Discover the Better!

Discover the differences between Bowmore 12 vs Caol Ila 12 in this in-depth comparison and decide which Single Malt is better for You!

Bowmore 12

  • Nose: Smoke, pineapple, orange.
  • Palate: Medium body, ripe fruit, honey, vanilla, iodine.
  • Finish: Short, smoke, mineral, charred oak.

Nose hits with a strong smoky note from the peats used to dry the malted barley at first, followed by a hint of pineapple and citrus.

On the palate, Bowmore has a medium body providing a pleasant mouthfeel. On the first sip I get ripe fruit and honey, along vanilla, a touch of iodine typical of Islay SIngle Malts and just a tad of smoke.

The finish is short, with a subtle hint of smoke, a mineral note and charred oak from the bourbon barrels in which it was aged.

This is a good pour for those who want a subtle hit of smoke as this whisky is quite restrained when compared to other Islay releases as Bowmore only uses half as much peat to dry the malted barley.

Bowmore 12 lacks proof as it would be immensely better at 90 proof (45% ABV) and the finish is a bit short but a pleasant sip nonetheless, as it does not have any off-putting note and doesn’t feel warm providing a good experience.

Learn how it compares to the Laphroaig 10!

There are a few facts worth knowing about this Scotch:

  • Bottled at 80 proof (40% ABV).

  • The Bowmore 12 was aged using ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels.

  • Won a gold medal at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

  • Gold at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2013.

  • Bowmore is one of the few distilleries that continues to hand-turn, malt, and peat its own barley.

  • Bowmore was founded in 1779 being the oldest distillery of Islay and the second oldest in Scotland.

  • It now belongs to Beam Suntory from Japan who also owns Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark among several others.

Caol Ila 12

  • Nose: Smoked ham, apple, pear.
  • Palate: Red fruit, caramel, vanilla, lemon zest.
  • Finish: Long, smoke, oak spice.

The nose has a prominent meaty note that brings a smoked ham-like aroma, followed by hints of apple and pear.

On the palate, Caol Ila provides a thick creamy body. Flavor hits with red fruit and caramel, followed by vanilla sweetness and a touch of lemon zest.

The finish is long, with a bit of spice to it, with a pleasant hit of smoke and an earthy and mineral note making it quite pleasing.

Caol Ila 12 is a creamy and well balanced dram, incredibly smooth and subtle on the palate, with a wonderful and unique nose and a satisfying balance of smoke and spice.

This whisky is not as complex and hard to appreciate as other Islay releases, Caol Ila is lighter and more easy-going but still interesting enough.

Caol Ila is less smoky as it distills in copper-pot stills that are less full maximizing copper contact.

But if you still find too peaty add a few drops of water and it will become more floral and sweeter.

Overall, Caol Ila is the best option for those who want to start drinking peaty whisky but are not ready to deal with the heavyweights such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin or Laphroaig.

Learn how it compares to the Lagavulin 16!

There are a few facts worth knowing about this single malt whisky:

  • Bottled at 86 proof (43% ABV).

  • Caol Ila is aged for a minimum of twelve years in traditional oak casks.

  • Earned Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition

  • Won Gold 2014 International Spirits Challenge.

  • Caol Ila Distillery was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson near Port Askaig on the isle of Islay, Scotland.

  • 95% of Caol Ila’s distillery production is used as part of the blend of the Johnnie Walker Black Label. This whisky is a blend of 40 different whiskies and Caol Ila is part of the blend.

  • Caol Ila is owned by Diageo, the British spirits giant who also holds Johnnie Walker among several other brands.

Bowmore vs Caol Ila: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Bowmore 12$63
Caol Ila 12$82

Bowmore 12 vs Caol Ila 12: Which is better?

Caol Ila 12 a more complex and satisfying whisky

WhiskeyBowmore 12Caol Ila 12
  • Caol Ila is a better rounded than Bowmore as it has more body and deeper tasting notes making a more rewarding whisky.

  • Both are easy on the smoke making good options for those who want to appreciate this note in moderation.

  • My only complaint about Caol Ila is the price as I feel I can get something like the Talisker 10 for a better price which I think is a better whisky.

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