The cask has yielded just 522 bottles and the whisky will be released at the natural cask strength of 52.7% ABV. These will cost £1,494 each and the exclusive retailer will be The Whisky Exchange. However, the sale of these bottles will be different - interested customers are being asked to put their name in to a special ballot and 520 names will then be drawn at random after the closing date of February 12th. To register you interest - click here.
Of the two remaining bottles one will go directly to the Diageo Archive in Menstrie and the other, which is Bottle #001, will be auctioned via Whisky.Auction. The proceeds from all sales are being donated by Diageo and split between seven charities working on Islay. They will fund numerous projects on the island including restoration, conservation, heritage and education. The seven charities are :
- Finlaggan Trust
- Islay Arts
- Islay Festival Association
- Islay Heritage
- Islay & Jura Community Enterprises
- MacTaggart Cyber Cafe
- RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
We were both delighted to be invited to a very special tasting of the Lagavulin 1991 at Diageo's offices in central London. This was hosted by Georgie Crawford and Dr. Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach at Diageo. Here we sampled the new whisky alongside the two other bicentennial limited editions - the 8 years old and 25 years old - and the iconic 16 years old expression.
Our tasting notes
The colour is deep amber and the nose has a lovely mix of sweet and smoky aromas - there is plenty of caramel and ashy peat smoke, plus hints of red apple, white chocolate and damp moss. There are also further notes of walnut, delicate baking spices, sweet malt biscuits and dried tropical fruits (especially mango and pineapple).
On the palate this whisky is warming, smoky and sweet with a lovely viscosity. There is a delicious mix of spiky wood spice, soft peat smoke, fruitiness and sweetness. This creates a combination of notes that work superbly together - think of toffee, fudge, honeycomb, cinnamon, five spice and earthy smoke.
The fruitiness is driven by notes of red apple skin, stewed pear, sultana, dried pineapple and candied orange (this becomes more prominent with time), plus hints of dried cranberry. Other elements detected include walnut, white chocolate, salted caramel and malted cereals (imagine something like Weetabix). The peat smoke develops a distinct dryness as the palate moves towards the finish.
The finish kicks off with a distinct feel of toffee apple and chocolate, and is very long with the earthy, ashy peat smoke lingering. This has a charcoal and bonfire edge to it. The warming wood and baking spices also hang around and become more prominent, especially once the sweet and fruity characteristics are fading.
What's the verdict?
The Lagavulin 1991 is a classy and sublime single malt that offers a fitting conclusion to the 200th anniversary celebrations. The combination of sweetness, fruitiness and smokiness is superb. It is also a great first release for 2017 and one that has set the mark very high for all subsequent new whiskies this year.
In addition, the fact that the proceeds will be channeled back in to charities on its island home will see an incredible benefit to the local community. This is a generous touch from Diageo and one that should be applauded. The only people who will make money will be those that are successful in the ballot and then stick their bottle on to an auction site.