Monday, April 16, 2012

Have just tried - Lagavulin 12 years old (2011)

The Lagavulin distillery is one of Diageo's flagship single malts and the popular 16 years old forms part of their iconic Classic Malts series - it is well loved for its peaty, smoky style of whisky. This expression is bottled at the natural cask strength of 57.5% ABV and formed part of the collection of whiskies in last year's Special Releases 2011 release by Diageo. It has been matured in re-fill ex-bourbon casks and has a recommended retail price of £63.  You should be able to still find a bottle in most specialist whisky retailers.

Lagavulin (pronounced lagga-voolin) is located on the western Scottish island of Islay. The majority of distilleries on Islay produce rich, smoky and complex single malt whiskies and Lagavulin is renowned as giving some of the best examples of these. The distillery is located on the south eastern coast of the island and was founded in 1816 by John Johnston.  It currently has a production capacity of just under three million litres per year. They have unusual pear shaped stills and they believe that a combination of these stills, the peating level (PPM) in their malted barley and one of the longest spirit distillation times in Scotland, give Lagavulin its own unique character and quality. The distillery is currently owned by drinks giant Diageo.

Our tasting notes
This whisky is pale gold in colour and the nose is fiery, intense and complex.  There is initial chilli spice and heavy peat, which is interlaced with iodine and damp moss aromas.  Underneath is further aromas of coal tar soap and some much needed sweetness in the form of vanilla and honey. The nose softens with time in the glass to reveal a lovely aroma of burnt oats.

The palate is lightly oily and pleasantly salty with some initial chilli heat.  This subsides as the whisky mingles with the saliva in the mouth to give some creamy, buttery vanilla, honey and cereal notes (this note is again particularly grainy and reminiscent of slightly burnt oatcakes).  In addition to the tangy note of salty brine, there is further tang added by a note of lemon zest.  The peatiness is always present and is unavoidable, but now has an interesting marriage of being sweet and earthy plus a little bonfire-like and ashy.  This is a very pleasant element and there are also faint hints of mint and liquorice.

The finish is powerful, smoky and bittersweet.  The sweet, mossy smoke seems to burn away forever and pleasantly sits in your mouth.  The sweetness of the honey and vanilla gives way to a more spicy note, which has a hint of heat reminiscent of red chilli.

What's the verdict?
This single malt is strong, feisty and ultimately, lovely.  Most people may find that they need to add a little water, and this softens some of these characteristics.  Releases from Lagavulin rarely disappoint and this one is no exception - it has everything that you should want from a smoky, peaty whisky.  If you like this style of whisky, then you should hunt down a bottle before it sells out.  You may then have to wait a while until the next one otherwise ...

1 comment:

Whisky Critic said...

I very much enjoyed the 16 year old, which was indeed very smoky as well with delightful notes of fruit and toffee to balance out the seaweed and iodine.