Lagavulin 8 Year Old

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 20.09.28Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2016
Age: 8 years old
ABV: 54.4%
Cask: Refill American Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Medicinal and carbolic! Airfix glue, coal-tar soap, salt-dough, dried ham and a touch of moules marinière. Citrus peels and some sooty, ashy smoke.

Palate: Sweet lemon sherbet, barley sugar, and drying lapsang souchong smoke. Mulled wine spices: Clove, black pepper, cardamom. A little funky damp driftwood note and then bitter cocoa powder.

Finish: Long, chalky, and dry with more pepper, smoke, and creamy oak peeking through.

Very moreish. It has a young, fresh, zesty character – lighter than the 12 and less complex but more integrated and smooth. The smoke itself is very refined with trademark notes of tea and soot but the rest of the palate has that young and green character.

I’m a fan of this, and I think Diageo did well releasing it at 48%ABV. It’s a more affordable non-sherried Laga and if you like young Islay notes and savoury drying smoke then this will definitely do it for you.

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Lagavulin Batch 1 (TBWC)

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 17.47.05Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2015
Age: ???
ABV: 54.5%
Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s a rarity! An indie bottling of Lagavulin.

Nose: Tequila in porridge (a great breakfast favourite of mine), salted oatcakes, sourdough and marzipan.

Palate: More tequila notes, perhaps with grappa. Dry smoke wafts through candied lemons and tart, tangy plums.

Finish: Oaky and buttery with more peat tang and sea salt.

I’m sorry to say, this is too young for the price. Those white spirit notes of tequila are classic signs of young/new make whisky. They’re not unpleasant per se, but you get better notes with age.

Lagavulin spirit is excellent, as far as new make goes. But it needs longer than this in cask before it’s ready for drinking. I’d guess this is around the 5 or 6 years old mark. That might work for more robust distillate like Kilchoman but Lagavulin needs more time.

Sorry chaps at Master of Malt, but this isn’t a winner for my money! 500ml for £100. I’d rather have 700ml of 12 year old and have cash to spare…

Lagavulin 1995 (FOCM 2008)

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laga

Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2008, Distilled: 1995
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 48%
Cask: European first-fill sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s another Islay treat. Lagavulin is Diageo’s other Islay distillery (besides Caol Ila), and this particular release is part of their “Friends of Classic Malts” series of special releases.

After a couple of years trying various bottlings, I really feel I’m beginning to understand Lagavulin.

Ardbeg and Laphroaig are big, shouty, extroverted whiskies. The former is full of proud, earthy peat flavour; the latter has that distinctly medicinal, iodine quality. Of the three Islay distilleries in Kildalton, Laga is the quiet and unassuming one in the middle – soft, subtle, and elegantly understated.

As tends to be the way, it’s the quiet ones you should watch out for.

Let’s (figuratively) dive in:

Nose: There’s rich, full, rounded fruit aromas wrapped in the savoury, dry, smoky notes of Lagavulin peat. Plum jam, blackberries, sultanas, pine resin, fresh rolling tobacco, sea salt, and a very definite smell of tea leaves. Thick legs on it, and a dark sherried colour. I’m expecting a lot of sherry influence on the tongue.

Palate: Would never guess this is a first-fill sherry if I hadn’t read it beforehand. Sweet wood smoke leads the way, developing into savoury cereal and wood notes. The sweetness seems to come from the barley, rather than the grape, and so it’s not over-powering at all, revealing more of those savoury notes: liquorice, toasted-oak (with only a tiny hint of vanilla) and some maritime mineral flavours.

Finish: The gentle peat smoke and liquorice notes linger, with a mouth-drying texture akin to black tea.

I could happily just nose this whisky all night – the balance between sweet fruit and savoury peat is spot-on and the subtle notes just keep on evolving in the glass. I’d love to know what kind of sherry was in the barrel beforehand.

The way they’ve got the sherry notes on the nose, but have reserved the palate for those malty, oaky, peaty flavours is a stroke of genius, since it gives you the opportunity to appreciate each set of flavours distinctly.

After the fruity nose, and knowing it was matured in a first-fill barrel, I was expecting a sherry monster… but there’s no monsters here.

Cracking stuff.

Thanks very much to the Blankenstijn family at WhiskySample.nl for the taster.

Lagavulin 12 (2014)

Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2014
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 54.4%
Cask: Bourbon Cask

Nose: Wet rocks, fresh peat, sea air – a hint of seaweed and brine. Varnish and lacquer.

Palate: Viscous and oily, zesty and savoury smoke. Woody tobacco flavours.

Finish: Smooth and oaky with a touch of black pepper.

I do love a Lagavulin 12. The 16 is sublime but I like the unsherried character of the younger brother – that lack of sweet edge reveals some very tasty savoury elements. And a cask-strength Islay is always a winner in my book.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for just £7.72.

Dramming Through The Snow

Hope everyone’s having a great Christmas!

I’ve had the busiest December I can ever remember. Our house purchase finally completed so we’ve been frantically moving in and unpacking. Our baby is due any day now so we’ve been buying all the clothes and bits and bobs that little humans need.

Into the mix we’ve had all the usual Christmas business of cooking, wrapping, unwrapping and visiting.

Luckily, I’ve still found some time to relax and enjoy a dram or two here and there over the holidays.

Up first, a popular little number from Down Under:

Sullivan’s Cove French Oak

Distillery: Sullivan’s Cove
Bottled: 2013
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 47.5%
Cask: French Oak (Port Cask)

Nose: Vanilla bean, red currants, red apples.

Palate: Muscavado sugar and meadow flowers with more soft fruit. A definite flavour of red wine gums, with a wonderful waxy mouthfeel.

Finish: Honey and spicy oak, cardamon, a touch of clove.

So, this one had a lot of attention after winning a slew of awards in 2013 and 2014 (see Master of Malt for a list). Australian whisky isn’t something you see every day, so it’s a pleasure to try a sample

I do like the very waxy, wine-gum-esque mouthfeel and the notes of soft red fruits – it’s not a combination I’ve come across before as far as flavour profiles go.

I’ve seen the French Oak on sale at staggering prices and it’s nigh-on-impossible to get hold of a bottle unless you’re buying at auction. It’s very nice, but I think the huge amount of media attention it’s received has inflated the expectations (and price) beyond a level the whisky can represent. It’s good stuff, but I think the scarcity and novelty of it is driving the price far more than the liquid itself.

A bar in Manchester is selling 2.5cl measures for £16 a pop. I bought my 5cl sample from The Whisky Tasting Club for a mere £9. Bargain!

Lagavulin 12 (2014)

Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2014
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 54.4%
Cask: Bourbon Cask

Nose: Wet rocks, fresh peat, sea air – a hint of seaweed and brine. Varnish and lacquer.

Palate: Viscous and oily, zesty and savoury smoke. Woody tobacco flavours.

Finish: Smooth and oaky with a touch of black pepper.

I do love a Lagavulin 12. The 16 is sublime but I like the unsherried character of the younger brother – that lack of sweet edge reveals some very tasty savoury elements. And a cask-strength Islay is always a winner in my book.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for just £7.72.

Bowmore Feis Ile 2014, 1989

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottled: 2014
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 53.3%
Cask: Bourbon cask and French wine barrique

Nose: Pithy orange, candy, white chocolate ganache, roses, and a faint whiff of the sea.

Palate: Tart and tangy fruits. Blood oranges, raspberry, a touch of bitter marmalade with sweet fragrant smoke running throughout.

Finish: Parma violets and love hearts – a fruity sherbet explosion.

My gosh, wow. I can see why people queue-up for days outside the distillery to get their mitts on this stuff. It’s absolutely bloody lovely.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for £29.63. Not bad, given the bottle sets you back £465. Sadly, it’s all gone now…

Port Ellen 1978 (2nd Release)

Distillery: Port Ellen
Bottled: 2002, Distilled: 1978
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 59.35%
Cask: Bourbon cask

Nose: Leather and old books, sherbet, damp wood. Rain smell. Pebble beach.

Palate: Sweet lemon candy, brine, soft ashy smoke. Oily mouthfeel, like runny honey. A little fragrant floral note too, something like the rosewater flavour of Turkish delight.

Finish: Savoury, nutty aftertaste. Cloves, black pepper, tobacco leaf. A little more sherbet tingle.

Like smoking a mild, sweet cigar by a fire in an old antique shop after eating a lemon meringue pie. Glorious.

Remarkably smooth and mellow for a 59% cask strength Islay. 24 years in barrel have created a really round, soft flavour so the peat shout is now all but a whisper. This has softened the character to one with more ashy, sooty notes than fresh smoke. Sort of like the dry, dusty embers of a beach fire…

As expected with Port Ellen, there’s a distinctively lemon-sherbet nose amidst a pleasant woody dampness, hints of dusty leather armchair. Also plenty of clear coastal notes of sea salt and pebble beach.

Thanks very much to the Blankenstijn family at WhiskySample.nl for the taster. Sadly, there are no more samples of this bottling left now, though there are still some unofficial bottlings available.


My goodness, what wonderful whisky…

Much love to one and all and best wishes for the new year – here’s to all the drams to come in 2015.

Sláinte!