Saturday, May 28, 2022

Review / Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2022 Edition

Today is Lagavulin Day, the opening event at the annual Fèis Ìle festival on the famous whisky island of Islay. Each distillery on the island hosts a special day and release a limited edition whisky to celebrate. Lagavulin is always the first which makes this even more exciting. The Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2022 Edition features casks selected by the distillery team including new Distillery Manager, Jordan Paisley. 

The whisky was initially matured in re-fill American oak ex-bourbon hogsheads, before being finished in virgin American oak barrels. It has been released at 12 years of age and there are just 6,336 bottles in the batch. It has been bottled at the natural cask strength of 57.7% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour.

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 capacity of approximately three million litres. The whisky produced there is split between the Lagavulin single malt range and for use within Diageo's extensive set of blends, where it is one of the prominent malts in White Horse.

The Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2022 Edition will be on sale at the festival from Lagavulin Day (today - May 28) onwards from the distillery and via A bottle will cost £165. They will be sold on a first come, first served basis until sold out.

Our tasting notes

The colour is pale golden yellow and the nose is vibrant, smoky and expressive. It is sweet and peaty with aromas of smoky butterscotch and toffee apple rising first. Then comes sweet medicinal smoke, earthy malted cereals and hints of white chocolate and vanilla.

On the palate this whisky is immediately sweet and spiky. Notes of white chocolate, spun sugar and butterscotch hit the taste buds and are then supported by robust malted cereals. This has a biscuit-like quality and the combination made us think of chocolate and syrup cookies. Crisp and juicy green apple also comes through and adds a little freshness.

Of course Lagavulin would not be Lagavulin without peat smoke, and this is never far away. It grows out of the initial sweetness and maltiness to take over an dominate. It has an acrid and bitter edge with time and is distinctly earthy and medicinal - think of damp moss, dried seaweed, bitter salad leaves and a drip of iodine. The smoke wraps around all the other elements and also adds a peppery, almost chilli-like warmth.

The finish is very long with the peat smoke and maltiness lingering well. The sweet and green apple characteristics fade early on, but then the malted cereal notes drag the the whisky out. The smoke is the final element to leave. 

What's the verdict?

This year's Fèis Ìle bottling from Lagavulin is big, bold and peaty. No surprises there, but the delicious and heightened sweetness is. The virgin oak barrels have added a lovely definitive note that is somewhere between vanilla sugar, white chocolate and butterscotch sauce. This compliments the powerful and spiky smoke very well and makes it a superb offering. 

Our only issue is that the price is a bit steep for a 12 years old whisky - we understand that it is cask strength, limited in number and a 'time and place' single malt that is only available at the distillery during the festival. But even so, £165 seems heavy.

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