For many malt fans (myself firmly included) Lagavulin is both a special and deeply significant distillery. By virtue of this 16 year old expression’s position in Diageo’s Classic Malts series, the whisky is many people’s first experience of the Islay heavyweights, and you could hardly wish for a better or more engaging introduction. Lagavulin distillery sits on the drier side of the proverbial “smokey spectrum”, less medicinal than Laphroaig whisky and more rounded and approachable than many Ardbegs.
If you are lucky enough to visit Islay and find yourself at the doors of this historic distillery, the importance of the place and its spirit only intensifies further. From the old larch washbacks and distinctly squat, short-necked stills to their long still runs of over 10 hours and lovely old-school warehouses, there’s much to love. It’s true that all of this is lent a bittersweet edge by the lack of staff per shift and the inescapable presence of computer-led automation, however when you’re stood on Lagavulin Bay, gazing across to Dunyvaig Castle with a dram straight from the cask in hand, it’s hard to avoid falling more deeply in love with this classic distillery.
Lagavulin 16 year old
43% abv, OB, 2007
Richly smokey and slightly rooty/earthy peat with medicinal accents and an underling, softly fruity sweetness of apricot and orange syrup. Coastal notes begin to build quite quickly alongside the peat with touches of hot scallop shells, and a gentle brininess mixed with dried apple. A little worn leather and damp tobacco develop in time, with some further hints of juniper, eucalyptus and sweet cured ham adding greater depth.
A near perfect translation of the nose at first with a wave of dry smoke, background fruitiness and building maritime notes of sea salt and the hot shells. A little smoked tea and a delicate bitterness of walnut and apple skins come next with hints of the menthol notes in the background. Wonderfully measured and engaging.
Silky and faintly oily and while certainly not as full or coating as higher strength examples, rich enough.
Long, satisfying and beautifully balanced with some candied orange and walnuts alternating with softly spiced smoke, liquorice, cocoa powder and leather.
A top class “entry level” bottling in all departments. This particular sample was from a 2007 release and while it’s true to say that batches can vary slightly, it’s one of the most consistently excellent releases on the market. For fans of the distillery it can be frustrating that we see so few examples of Lagavulin made available, so it’s a blessing that this, and the equally excellent Distiller’s Edition, are of such high quality. All that said, there is talk of a forthcoming 21 year old on the horizon and if you have had the chance to taste the old, and now prohibitively expensive 21 and 30 year olds, this news may well give you cause to sell your children or get saving, whichever you prefer.
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