I’ve got two rare Lagavulin’s that have been lugged back from Islay and Campbeltown for me to taste. There will be much thanking of Mike for this feat, as he was the one there and very kindly let me taste them.
I missed out on Lagavulin on my own Islay trip as it was undergoing maintenance, and I didn’t know about the most talked about tour on the whole of Islay; the legendary warehouse tasting with Iain MacArthur. My mistake but I did pop into the shop and get the 12yo cask strength, which really impressed me.
A little wiser now, I know that Lagavulin can be just as good as Laphroaig and Ardbeg, which these really prove:
Cadenhead’s Islay Single Malt Warehouse Tasting 58.8%
Nose: Raw and coastal, lots of peat, some malt, clean Riesling-like minerality, lemon juice behind, slightly savoury as it opens up.
Water: Chimney soot, ash, put out fire, a dirtier minerality.
Taste: Soft, beautifully balanced arrival, malty, great minerality, heaps of peat and smoke, more juicy lemon then with a real edge to it like you literally just bit into one. Great!
Water: Still great. A little dirtier with soot.
Finish: Long length. Powerful, balanced, great transition, malty, sea salt, lemon juice.
Absolutely definitely a Laga, so says Mike. A really fun, awesome whisky that reminds you of the raw power of Islay.
Lagavulin 23yo Warehouse Tasting 54%ish
Colour: Light Amber
Nose: Immediately complex, balanced and interesting. There's still freshness here with lime and lemon rind citrus, spearmint, beautiful soft ash, lovely light sweetness from the Sherry and a little funky seashore bringing complexity, sea salt, a little seaweed left on the beach for a little too long, crystallised honey, really lovely dried apricot and a little vanilla with icing sugar. Fantastic nose, if there's a flaw here I can't detect it.
Taste: Intense arrival then soft and then grows back up again. A whisky that really knows what’s its doing with development and structure. Waves of complex flavour but really kicks up after a few more seconds with a lot of Laphroaig-like seashore notes and minerality, there's some discreet oak drying, dried seaweed. Lime juice, sea salt, a little earthiness, dried apricot again, some ash and soot coming more into the finish. Doesn't quite deliver on the promises of the nose though, it’s just a tad too dry and the oily mouthfeel has been dulled a bit. Minor things though, minor things.
Finish: Medium/Long length. More of the lime juice, more oak here too with this sooty cooling mint thing going on.
Refill Sherry Cask. Many, many thanks to Mike for bringing back this one. The nose is the equal of the Laga 25 200th but the oak has gotten to the taste a little more. A shame, but still, Lagavulin is always a pleasure to taste at this age, especially straight from the cask, or as near to as possible considering you're trapped in Wales.
Average Score: 81.7
Distillery Ranking 5th/ 62 places
Up/Down: 11>5 (Up 6)
Thanks for reading!
Scotch Reviews #653-#654
Whisky Network Reviews #783-#784
Network Average: 75.0
Best Score: 94
Worst Score: 12
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good
Full Disclosure Disclaimer: I currently work as a Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. You can find more on my scoring here. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and I am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and I am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.