Google Lagavulin 16 a wee odyssey

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

September 30, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Lagavulin 16
a wee odyssey!

It’s often fun to check a longstanding bottling against older examples of itself and spot differences and similarities. Companies are banging on endlessly about consistency so it’s always interesting to see how things change over time. Particularly with iconic and distinctive examples such as Lagavulin 16 year old. Lets have a few today, in quick fire succession, starting with the most recent...


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2017) Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2017) Colour: Amber - gold. Nose: Leafy and earthy peat to start, bracken, beach wood, coal hearths and seaweed. An oiliness and a slightly syrupy sweetness underneath. A little green fruit, camphor and sea salt. All quite excellent. Coming back to it after the others you really notice the more active wood aspects, there is a distinctive lick of vanilla sweetness about it. Mouth: Big, loud peat oils, tar resin, camphor, sea weed, shellfish and peppered mackerel. Quite syrupy in texture and with a rising sweetness. A slightly buffeting, gravelly minerality and lots of saltiness. Finish: Good length, warming, leafy, smouldering peats and more syrupy sweetness. Comments: Still a great, benchmark whisky. I’m always happy when I’m tasting or drinking this. SGP: 548 - 87 points.  


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2012) Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2012) Colour: Amber - gold. Nose: The peat is denser on this one straight away, more simmering, more crystalline but still with this slightly earthy and leafy edge. Beyond this it’s more medicinal and fruitier; more notes of green fruits with plenty of big hospital aromas. Perhaps more classically coastal as well with a lean minerality. Mouth: Immediately more complex and more drying than the 2017. A balance between a crusty saltiness, oily and umami peat and a sweeter, green fruitiness. More of these classical Lagavulin camphor, resin and sea weed aspects. Perhaps a handful of green olives in brine and some anchovies. Finish: Long, slightly ashy, peat smoke, more seaweed, crab meat and some dried herbal notes. Comments: A notch better in my wee book. SGP: 438 - 88 points.  


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2003) Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2003) Colour: Same. Nose: Phwoar! This is richer, fatter, oilier; the peat is almost greasy with some notes of pineapple and coal tar soap. Various tinctures and ointments, drying seaweed, lanolin and hessian. Still with these green fruits. This is a notch more magnificent on the nose than the previous two. Mouth: Beautiful! More elegant, more harmonous and more complex still. The fruit is louder and the peat more wispy, softer, a little subdued perhaps but it’s subdued to a beautiful, leafy smoulder. Gravadlax with dill, motor oil, coal hearths, kelp (I’m getting bored of writing seaweed) and notes of iodine and mercurochrome. Some lemon skins and smoked fish. Finish: Long and full of tobacco, peat smoke, tar liqueur and hessian. Quite a bit more drying. Totally beautiful. Comments: I’m quite surprised at the gulf between 2012 and 2003. This seems to be the decade where Lagavulin started to shed a lot of its more overt fruitiness. SGP: 548 - 91 points.  


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers, 75cl, -/+ Late 1980s)

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers, 75cl, -/+ Late 1980s) This is one of the earliest batches of the 16 year old, a UK market version this one. Colour: Gold, a notch lighter than the others. Nose: We’re in different territory again, this is a more even balance between sweet, whispering peats and more luscious, up-front fruit qualities. Banana, pineapple, greengage, a little mango. Then iodine, old rope, hessian, tar liqueur and brine. Quite magnificent and more towards a fruitier, older style of Islay whisky. Mouth:    Gah! Magnificent! Old rope, tar, peat, various oils, fruit liqueurs, oysters, lemon peel, crystallised tropical fruits. A whole other ballpark this stuff! Camphors, resins, smoked tea, black olives, earth, sandalwood, the list goes on and on... call that brigade of yours Serge! Orange blossom and medical tinctures emerge with a little more time. But then, you could write an essay about a whisky like this so we’ll just stop here I think. Finish: Full spectrum: coastal to sweet; deep peat to fragrant smoke; green to tropical. Beautiful and not a little humbling. SGP: 447 - 93 points.



Conclusions... Well, for starters I think we can safely say Lagavulin 16 remains a ‘no brainer’ of a whisky. When so many brands are releasing dull nonsense it seems to only shine brighter on the shelves. Looking over this little vertical it seems that as you go back in time Lagavulin also becomes drier and fruitier - not surprising as that is often the story at many Scottish distilleries, especially on Islay. It’s also interesting to note that it really seems to have ‘shifted’ - for want of a better expression - to its more contemporary style between the early and late 2000s. Were there many changes in the early-mid 1990s when those bottlings would have been distilled? What’s also pleasing is that there is a sense of identity that runs through all these whiskies - they all ‘feel’ very much like Lagavulin. Which makes me happy.  


Now, I’m not sure what could climb over that magnificent old 16 year old but lets have one for the road...  


Lagavulin 16 yo (55.8%, OB, Feis Ile 2017, Moscatel Double Maturation, 6000 bottles) Lagavulin 16 yo (55.8%, OB, Feis Ile 2017, Moscatel Double Maturation, 6000 bottles) Moscatel is a fortified sweet wine not dissimilar to Pedero Ximenez, not much is made these days. Lets see how it gets on with Lagavulin... Colour: Chardonnay. Nose: A pin-sharp, bright, crystalline peat at first. Chiselled, poised and muscular. Decked out with notes of freshly squeezed lemon juice, lime zest, ink, TCP, heather, brine, grilled fish skin and sea water. Not a shred of evidence of sweet wine on the nose so far. With water: becomes more lemony, more floral and a tad grassy. Mouth: Big, undulating peat oils with an ashy, briny and razor-edged smokiness. Smoked mussels, kippers, black olives in brine, a few dried herbs and some kerosine. No naked flames near this one please! Wet pebbles, sea salt, some kelp and a mineral edge. With water: develops a more meaty texture with notes of shellfish, smoked salmon and more citrus notes. Some black pepper and another chunk of seashore. Finish: Big, grizzly and drying. Lots of cracked pepper and sea salt, brine, lemon oil and black olives. More savoury peat. Comments: It’s a solid Lagavulin. I’m not sure what the Moscatel really added and overall it’s probably a tad simplistic for me. But it remains highly sturdy and quaffable. SGP: 349 - 88 points.  


(Big thanks to Dirk and Chris)  







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