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

February 2, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Recent Official Lagavulins
Given the insatiable thirst for Islay whiskies, there is understandably more motivation for Diageo to release a greater array of bottlings from what is undeniably one of its most iconic malts. If not the most iconic: Lagavulin. Increasingly it also seems this includes just bottling private single casks for wealthy people. Apparently ‘doing single casks’ is no longer so ‘cost inefficient’ for Diageo. Anyway, no excuses ever needed to try some Lagavulins and we’ll not complain.


Lagavulin 2002/2018 Distiller’s Edition (43%, OB, lgv 4/507)

Lagavulin 2002/2018 Distiller’s Edition (43%, OB, lgv 4/507)
Always enjoyed this bottling over the years, generally my favourite ‘finished’ whisky ever. Although quality has been a tad up and down in recent years I’d say. Colour: light amber. Nose: sweet peat, something like salted melon and then more classical things like bacon frys, smoked meats, hessian, black pepper, tar, smoked tea and vapour rub. Lots of smouldering wood, hints of brine, waxed canvas, squid ink and herbal toothpaste. Gets increasingly kippery, gristy and slightly greasy. A few wee hints of active oak with sawdust and pencil shavings peeping through. Mouth: oily hessian rags, sooty coal scuttles, damp earth, raw peat smoke and hot, smoky grist. Pancetta wrapped scallops on a BBQ, some charred toast and things like root vegetables and gentian eau de vie. The thing I always liked about this bottling is the integration of the PX and that’s very much the case here - you really can’t see the join. Hot cooking oils, black olives, anchovies and seawater. Getting increasingly medical as well with some hospital antiseptic and gauze. Finish: long, full of heathery smoke, new leather, ointments, iodine, dried seaweed in miso broth and soy sauce. Still very kippery. Comments: Still a delicious and dependable dram. Although I feel it’s lost some sense of depth over the years.
SGP: 476 - 85 points.



Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 2018)

Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 2018)
I very much enjoyed the first release for the bicentenary in 2016, as did Serge who gave it 90 points at the time. Let’s see how this follow up compares... Colour: pale white wine. Nose: we’re really close to the raw ingredients here, raw smoked grist, smoky wort, yeasty sourdough starter, chalk, mineral salts, wet beach pebbles, lemon juice, sheep wool, freshly washed fabric, carbolic soap and green olives in brine. An extremely open and naked style that is pretty unforgiving to the base distillery character, however, this being Lagavulin, that’s no bad thing. If you like this fresh, in your face, distillate-forward style - which I do - then this is really great stuff. Little things like newspaper ash, ink and carbon paper emerge, along with a slight farminess which adds a touch of funk. Gets increasingly mezcal-esque with a bit of time. Not unlike the 12yo Special Releases from 2018. Mouth: hugely briny, pickled onion Space Invaders (I’ll bring you a pack Serge), freshly kilned malt, sea salt, smoked mussels, natural tar extract, burning rosemary, some fennel, tarragon and bay leaf and a big, dry, tarry rope note. Uncompromising is the word. Seriously salty stuff. Salt baked cod, more brine, anchovy paste, both shades of olive, some grass, lemon juice, oysters, fish sauce, miso. Packs a mighty punch and swooshes like a Katana (what?). Finish: long, full of bonfire smoke, ash, burning pine cones, malt vinegar, iodine, kelp and salt-cured meats. Comments: It’s very good. I’m swithering to an extent though. On one had the purity and power are impressive. On the other it is rather singular and perhaps lacks complexity. But, I’m feeling generous and it does doubtless fly the flag for excellent whiskies at younger ages that wear that age on their sleeve (label) with pride.
SGP: 367 - 89 points.



Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive Bottling (54.1%, OB, 2017, 7500 bottles)

Lagavulin 'Distillery Exclusive Bottling' (54.1%, OB, 2017, 7500 bottles)
Diageo seem to be rather fond of these NAS distillery specials these days. Rumour has it this one contains a high proportion of 16 years old that was re-racked into ex-Moscatel casks married with some younger bourbon matured stocks. Moscatel being a sweet sherry similar to PX. Colour: gold. Nose: it certainly ‘feels’ like an older dram - although after the 8 that’s not saying much. A little more mentholated, herbal and petrolic with these lovely notes of salted almonds, kippers drizzled with lemon juice, salted mead, birch beer, cough medicine and iodine drops. There’s also a peppery vinaigrette note with watercress, waxed lemon rind and something like smoked shoe polish (which probably exists in some hipster modern man shop somewhere). Some ash-rolled goats cheese, cow shed, vapour rub, lemon balm and a rather strong note of mocha and a little very bitter chocolate. With water:   much more coal dusty, tobacco leaf, lemon rind, earthy mulch, seaweed and touches of beef stock. Mouth: thick, salty, fatty, lots of bacon, salted almonds, soy sauce, a few drops of good limoncello, old ointments, cough syrups and herbal extracts. Excellent delivery. Returns to these light menthol qualities such as eucalyptus vapours and balms. Sandalwood, black olives, mushroom powder and lapsang souchong. A big, emphatic, mouth-coating texture. With water: green peppercorns in brine, game meats, fir liqueur, antiseptic and plasticine. A big, fishy, oily and leathery Laga. Finish: long, leathery, slightly gamey, salted meats, tar, iodine, seaweed, brine and soot. Comments: A big, hearty Lagavulin. There’s obviously been a game of musical casks played with this one at some point but I think it worked very well.
SGP: 477 - 89 points.



Lagavulin 'Jazz Festival 2017' (57.6%, OB, refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts, 6000 bottles)

Lagavulin 'Jazz Festival 2017' (57.6%, OB, refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts, 6000 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re is back to this more pure and direct style of Lagavulin. Lots of grilling shellfish, whelks, scallops, cured bacon, smoky grist, a lungful of kiln air, beach pebbles, tractor tyres, barnyard, bailed hay, chalk and minerals. It’s a rather busy, petroly nose with plenty between the farmyard and the seashore to keep it chattering away. Beach foam, smelling salts, clay and many ointments and punchy medicinal notes of floor cleaner and mercurochrome. Very good! With water: mineral salts, almonds, chamois leather, lighter fluid and a hint of salted pistachios. Pristine and chiselled. Mouth: hot and peppery at first with notes of smoked paprika, burning bracken, dried sage, hot smoked salmon, peppered mackerel and antiseptic mouthwash. Some cooked grains and roasted vegetables as well. Then a brinier edge of seawater and fish sauce. With water: really excellent with water now, swims very well. Gets fatter and oilier in texture but without losing that purity and that saline edge. Rather there’s touches of tobacco, some wee sweeter touches and hints of olive oil and freshly chopped herbs like chives and parsley. Finish: long, ashy, lemony and rather tart with light herbaceous qualities and autolytic notes of yeast, bread starter and baking soda. A soft and slightly wispy smokiness fades in and out. Comments: A very good and pretty classical Lagavulin that’s a lovely balance of power, precision and a good level of complexity with interesting development. A big fat 90 in other words. And a strong swimmer to boot.
SGP: 367 - 90 points.



Lagavulin Jazz Festival 2018 (58.5%, OB, 1st fill American oak barrels, refill American oak hogsheads & European oak puncheons)

Lagavulin 'Jazz Festival 2018' (58.5%, OB, 1st fill American oak barrels, refill American oak hogsheads & European oak puncheons)
Colour: white wine. Nose: tarter, sharper and slightly yeastier than the 2017. Rougher and more gravely as well with a rather more taught and punchy mineral profile. Malt vinegar on fish and chips, tar, aspirin, fresh oysters, lime juice, floor cleaner, caustic soda, air freshener and clean linen. Some brine, an abundance of ash and green olives. Not as interesting as the 2017 I don’t think, but still in possession of a commendably chiselled and sharp profile. With water: really pure petrol now. Mercurochrome, kerosene, sandalwood ash, beach sand and sea air. Mouth: white hot peat smoke, green peppercorns in brine, sea water, oyster sauce, lime juice, cigarette ash, coal tar smoke, lanolin, hot smoked white fish, tar liqueur, soot and miso. Quite a beast and a couple of notches better than the nose I’d say. Goes on with things like fermented fish paste, sardine spread, kippers in oil, germoline and antiseptic. Powerful stuff! With water: blue peat smoke, putty, raw barley, lemon thyme, a wee scoosh of WD40 and black olive tapenade. Finish: long and extremely smoky, a big rush of kiln peat smoke, the sweetness of an old barley wine, salt n vinegar crisps, brine and ointments. Comments: I wasn’t sure at first but it comfortably caught up with the 2017 in the end. An extremely useful bottle to have to hand in case you run out of fuel for your tractor or need to dissolve some barnacles from an old surfboard. Or perhaps listening to weird Jazz while slightly pissed in a random garage somewhere near Colmar...
SGP: 358 - 90 points.



And just briefly, because science, a wee vatting of all five is highly recommended should you be so inclined. Seriously, 91 points material. Rather like a slightly punchier, drier version of the 16. Now, of course I’m not going to let you know my vatting ratios. That shit costs money!



More tasting notesCheck the index of all Lagavulin we've tasted so far






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