Lagavulin is located on the south eastern coast of Islay and sits on Lagavulin Bay, a small bay dominated by the ruins of the 13th century Dunyvaig Castle. The name is taken from the anglicised name of the village in which the distillery is located - Lag a'Mhuilin, which translates as 'mill by the bay' from the local Gaelic dialect.
The distillery was founded in 1816 by John Johnston and is currently owned by Diageo. It has an annual production of approximately three million litres with the whisky produced there split between the Lagavulin single malt portfolio and for use within Diageo's extensive blended range, being one of the prominent malts in White Horse.
"To many people, Lagavulin is the definitive Islay malt and this new 10 years old expression has a charming exuberance. The different wood types used have helped create a whisky that is filled with contrasts."
Dr. Craig Wilson.
Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is immediately expressive and smoky. The smokiness has a damp and earthy feel to it with aromas of wet soil, green moss and seaweed. Supporting the earthiness are sweet aromas of honey, golden syrup, red apple and butterscotch. Hints of green chilli, cocoa and flint add depth.
On the palate this whisky has an interesting mix of sweet and drying notes. These seem to initially contradict each other but soon begin to work together. Honey and golden syrup come first, followed by something more toffee or butterscotch-like. There are also notes of vanilla pod, crisp green apple and poached pear evident. Then the smoke hits to create a warmth and vibrancy. This again has the damp earthy qualities from the nose and is most reminiscent of wet green moss with a pinch of green chilli. Underneath are woody and earthy spices (think of sandalwood, cinnamon and powdered ginger) and these add dryness and further warmth. Then come final hints of menthol, white chocolate, flint and black pepper.
The finish is extremely drying with plenty of ashy smoke, warming wood spices and a flinty/chalky quality coming to the fore. These mingle to create a heady combination, especially once the sweeter elements have faded away.
What's the verdict?
We were looking forward to sampling this new expression of Lagavulin as the Islay distillery has long been one of our favourites. It delivers everything that we want from a smoky whisky, and Lagavulin in particular - classy and expressive smoke, vibrant green fruits and delicious sweetness.
This Lagavulin 10 years old grips the taste buds well but does seem to slightly lack in body from other expressions that we have tasted from the distillery. A bit of extra ABV strength could possibly rectify this, let's say 46% ABV rather than its 43%, but this may put off those purchasing in the airport retail stores. That said, this is decent whisky and offers plenty for the price.