Due to inability to cope with excessive sun and heat and a high quantity of work I am still working my way through this backlog of tastings that I managed to amass back in Scotland earlier this January. I have a few more to publish so hopefully by the time I get the last of them out my body will have fully aclimatised to Peru and I can find some time to sit down and write a lengthy report about Pisco and its surrounding culture. Till then though there is the small matter of this and a couple of other interesting tastings to get through. Also I’m off to Huacachina this weekend. Huacachina is a small ‘Oasis’ in the desert that is supposed to be quite touristy and full of ‘Gringos’. Needless to say I am intrigued by the idea of an Oasis full of sunburned white people all attempting to find the gift shop. I intend to go along, drink cocktails in the shade and learn all about it. Stay tuned…
Today we’ll batter through three different Lagavulin. I don’t think there’s any need to repeat how frustratingly, frequently brilliant this distillery and its whisky is so lets just knuckle down and get on with the weighty task of tasting three almost certainly gorgeous Lagavulin. Lets start with an all time classic to establish a benchmark…
Lagavulin 16yo. OB. 2009/2010?. 43%. 70cl.
Colour: Light Amber
Nose: One of the most unmistakeable aromas in whisky land: Lagavulin. Wonderfully wild and vibrant coastal notes of brine, powerful seaweed, lemon juice, oysters and some rich, salty sherry notes in the background. Fantastic combination of the coastal aspects with all the medicinal complexities as well, mercurochrome, tincture, iodine and antiseptic all blustering around with more background notes of menthol toothpaste and mouthwash. Some wet earth and muscular, gristy peat as well.
Palate: Wonderfully dry and intense notes of seaweed, medicine, peat, tar and smoke, that intense dryness is the most unmistakable aspect of Lagavulin for me. Some gloriously chewy berry fruit qualities underneath all that Islayness and lots of sub flavours of kippers, old rope, sea salt, calpol and iodine. Perfect balance between classical peat flavours and medicinal notes. More seaweed and rugged briny seashore notes. Just brilliant!
Finish: Long, peaty, earthy, seaweedy, medicinal and Lagavuliny.
Comments: For me this is the not just the best standard bottling from all the Islay distilleries but arguably the best from any distillery, the unending consistency and quality is just spellbinding. Well worth the £45 price tag.
Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: At first buttery and then pin sharp coastal notes full of kelp, kippers, iodine, lemon juice, sea salt, brine, crab meat, fresh fish, oil boilers, dill, marzipan, sack cloth and kreel nets. Staggeringly coastal and fresh, this eats right through to your brain with its witheringly precise aromas. Coal tar soap, pristine minerality, wet rocks, sheep’s wool, big notes of gentian root and some very clean, biting saltiness. With water: Little flecks of white stone fruits now with floral notes and a more delicate angle on the coastal elements. More sooty, gently waxy and citrusy.
Palate: Big and dry with lots of different herbs, peat oils, seaweed, lobsters, hessian, a little icing sugar and odd notes of mead. Very classical Lagavulin, in keeping with these various single casks they have been releasing for the feis ile in recent years. More notes of sheeps wool, iron, boiler sheds, iodine, lemon juice and coal. With water: notes of rusty iron, wet leaves, forest flora, mercurochrome, bandages, more minerals, flints and codliver oil.
Finish: Long and massive, full of brine, steel wool, wet rocks, menthol and sharp peat.
Comments: Top notch Lagavulin, as with all the various single casks and 12yo annual releases from recent years this should start to become utterly stellar after a couple of decades in the bottle. With most new peated whiskies these days being pretty boring these Lagavulins remain some of the few last outposts of phenolic fascination.
Lagavulin 21yo. OB. 1985-2007. Spanish sherry casks. 6642 bottles. 56.5%. 70cl.
Nose: Like raw tar and jam in some kind of mad cocktail. Sweet, very oily peat with a creamy sherry quality bubbling underneath and then lots of smoky bacon and other cured meats. Freshly ground black pepper, fresh mint leaf, espresso, big notes of iodine, seawater and cigar smoke. Tincture, diesel oil, gentian root, juniper, manure, farmyards, cow sheds, fresh oysters and more thick, flinty sherry that carries hints of struck matches. Pretty stunning stuff really. With water there are lots of wet pebbles, hessian, sheep’s wool, minerals, struck matches, sinewy peat and punchy coastal/medicinal notes.
Palate: Coal and resinous peat at first, intensely rooty, earthy and oily with massive notes of soil, tar, hessian, damp dunnage warehouse, wild mushrooms, blue cheese, cigars, molasses, mint choc chip ice cream and boisterous, arguably dirty sherry. I can understand why some people don’t like this but I love it, I think the rugged and slightly unclean nature of the sherry really bolster the classical Lagavulin characters. With water: it is still massive with immense peat, coal, tar, lanolin soap, grizzly phenols and engine oil with walnut oil and marzipan in the background. Camphor, rapeseed, gorse bushes, big bonfire smokiness, massive notes of creosote and preserved lemons.
Comments: This dram divided people on release, some love its dirty aspects some just think it’s unclean. I love it, I think those slightly dirty sherry notes are never overpowering but are in fact playful and gloriously balanced with the natural characters of the Lagavulin make. Maybe I’m biased because it was distilled in the year I was born, anyway, it’s stunning.