Consistency is what I think of from Lagavulin. The range is relatively small but extremely predictable in flavor and quality – all top notch. What you are going to find is a well balanced comforting Islay malt.
I have a soft spot for Lagavulin as it was my gateway dram into my feet in the peat – head in the smoke whisky drinking days. Not too many years ago I was fumbling around trying to find my whisky sea legs in one of the local whisky bars, Nihon. Nihon has one of the largest whisk(e)y selections around, which can prove difficult for those just breaking into whisk(e)y. At the time I was trying some standard Highland whiskies then my friend handed me a glass and told me to try it. I didn’t recognize the smell at all, it was definitely something different. Then the first sip…wow! The flavors were completely foreign to me, but I liked it, I liked it a lot. And so was my entry into the peated world of scotch whisky. – Chris
The first three were tasted at the same time but blind.
Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength 2009 Release
57.9% ABV. The 2010 release is ~$100
Color: Light Gold
Nose: Buttery, peat, sharp, ashy, coastal, alcohol burn
Palate: Big alcohol, oak, peat and ash, raw bit, buttery like the nose
Finish: Spicy/pepper, peat
Comments: Spunky and full of life, not reserved like its older brothers
This pale-straw pour gave off sweet-salty-smoked caramel, bright and full of butter. More butter and sweets on the tongue with a grassy note before iodine and late-blooming roasted malt flavors circled the wagons. Charred driftwood and a lingering sweet smoke brought the experience to completion. And stuck around for the after-party. A slight divergence from the traditional profile, this whisky was dangerously yummy while nailing all the reputable flavors. I could sit around drinking this all day.
43% ABV ~$65 (Costco had it at $49 at the end of the year)
Color: Dark Copper
Nose: Peat, salty, oily, tar, smoke mixed in there as well
Palate: Peaty, brine, coastal, ashy, some red fruit sweetness, leather, spices
Finish: Medium, sweet peat and a little ash
Comments: Perfectly balanced, peat and ash are balanced with a nice full rich body.
A dark yellow with a tinge of red, this was pleasing to the eye. It took very little effort to detect a dense, oily, sea-breeze, malt, and heated-candy nose assailing the olfactory sense. With a lush mouth-feel, a mildly sweet note quickly built into a balanced conflagration of roasty, salty-and-dusty malts. Then a smoother smokiness dragged some peat onto the scene. Lagavulin’s signature flavors… the bane of some and a blessing to others. In the early years of my whisky drinking, the Lagavulin 16 was held out at a warning, a right of passage for those who dared brave its dense and dangerous flavors. When I finally tried some I could only think that the mythos was built by lovers of Lagavulin who didn’t want to share their stash with the masses. Good idea to always have a bottle around.
Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition 1991 Pedro Ximenez Cask
43% ABV ~$110
Color: Medium/dark copper
Nose: Rich, deep sherried wood, peat, coal, salty, spice – licorice?, dusty
Palate: Initially less viscous than I anticipated, ashy, peat, middle tongue spice, sweetness comes through-but not as rich as the nose promised
Finish: Medium, ashy, spice and drying
Comments: An added layer of sweetness and richness to the standard 16. I am usually not a fan of distiller’s editions as they tend to overwhelm and dominate the distillery profile. This one on the other hand adds another dimension without obscuring what I like about Lagavulin.
The sea-salt and brine crawled right up the glass bringing some smoke, char, and dark candied orange with them. The honey dark liquor hit the palate with the smoke and char coming to the forefront and quickly sweetened up with roasted malts and something related to chocolate. Mildly numbing and viscous, the bouquet of salt was never far. A pleasant surprise, this amped-up what I am used to in the 16, dropping some of the oil for a sharper edge.
+1 Lagavulin Distillery Only Bottling (Eternal gratitude to Tony C.)
No Age Statement 52.5%ABV
Color: Medium copper
Nose: Invigorating peat, big spices, the same licorice notes that I get from the distiller’s edition, subtle smoke, there is definitely some young whisky in there, sweetness, sugar cookies, cake frosting, coastal background – wow there is a lot going on in there.
Palate: Signature Lagavulin style of peat and ash but bigger, bolder and prouder, honey sweetness, the alcohol is surprisingly well tamed, ashy again, the interplay between the peat, smoke and sweet notes is amazing, pick up some of the butteryness of the 12 year old.
Finish: Long, peat, spice and pepper
Comments: Simply amazing stuff, the complexity mixed with the vibrant kick in the pants assertiveness makes this whisky sing. Its like a combination of the three other expressions and then cranked up to max volume. Sorry neighbors, I’ll be too enchanted by this whisky for me to notice you pounding on the door to turn it down.
This whisky pretty much blew my mind. There is no point in trying to be subtle and surprise you with a come-from-behind finish. This thing is unholy-good (I am aware that sentence doesn’t make much sense but, hell, it was that good). A heated, sugary-salt breeze blew in from the isle. Medicinal citrus, a damn of malt about to burst. Heated peat and a faint char circling the glass. I could have nosed it into oblivion but simply couldn’t wait. One sip and I was sunk. Smoke and butter, pepper and coal, spiced iodine and sweet char. Malts o’ plenty and sugars of an unknown but respectable pedigree. Buttery saltwater taffy with a numbing peat and smoke oscillating throughout. A truly cunning malt, I was floored. By the time I got off the floor and was securely re-ensconced in my chair, a residual dusty burnt sugar, malt, and viscous peat-infused simple syrup melange was hanging around. A tail and a taste as long as you like. and then the peat and spice are still delivering. Why do we waste our lives drinking anything less? Pocket book issues and the need to retain a sense of perspective, I guess.
*Note: The picture of the 12 year old is actually a different vintage 12 year old (2003). The 2009 bottle met a disastrous fate – luckily it was empty