Can’t believe we haven’t yet covered one of these beastly young Lags here on ATW. Lagavulin is so intrinsically identifiable as the refined old gent of Islay- the more austere and mature dram of the big three (Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig) – that getting to see it in its untamed youth is kinda like seeing old photos of your grandparents and finally realizing that these beautiful old souls you know and love were once young, active and full of verve.
Lagavulin is most often seen in its 16 year old flagship incarnation. That whisky is a classic. A touchstone. A personal favorite. (And, in my humble opinion, still in great shape, irrespective of what some others say regarding quality slippage). But once a year we smokeheads and peat-o-philes are blessed with a scrappy and snarling 12 year old annual limited release of Lagavulin. That four year age variance constitutes a world of difference in terms of what the final product turns out to be. To be honest though…I’m not sure which I prefer more. I suppose the truest answer to which Lagavulin is my favorite would have to be ‘the one closest to hand’.
One quick note on appearance now. Not cause the aesthetics mean anything, but because it may speak a little about the casking for this one. This malt looks fairly blonde. Much lighter than the 16, which I believe has some sherry influence. Does that mean that this is primarily (or entirely) bourbon barrels? Or that the 16 is heavily coloured? Dunno. I do know, however, that the 16 carries more notes I’d associate with some sherry in the mix. Either way…having a bottle of each on hand ain’t a bad thing. Just sayin’.
By the way…drinking this stuff while on Islay is the stuff dreams are made of. This is the distilled essence of the island.
Nose: Coastal as hell. Band-aids soaked in brine. Ocean water. Cracked white pepper. Smoldering peat fire and bucketloads of tasty smoke. Mint leaves candy and green ju-jubes. A touch of soil. Oysters on the shell…with a good squeeze of lemon. Some cocoa behind it all. A touch of coffee. Horse blanket. Something kinda creamy and sugary. Sweeter and fruitier than I’d imagined it could be.
Palate: Sweet, smoky delivery. Very earthy. Lemon and shellfish. Intense salt and pepper. Bittersweet chocolate. A little anisette. Grains are crisp and clear. Sour apple peelings. The smoke and medicinal notes echo on and on. Man…I love a whisky that lingers on the tongue like this.
Thoughts: Lagavulin is just as impressive in youth as it is in maturity. Here we get to see the power of the peat before time has really knocked the jagged edges off.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt