By Kurt Maitland
The world famous Lagavulin distillery is located on Islay, and officially dates from 1816, that first peaceful year for Britain after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812. Its name means “hollow by the mill” in Gaelic. It, along with Caol Ila, are Diageo’s current pair of distilleries on the island. It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, it is one of the best known of that island’s distilleries. It gets name checked often. Nick Offerman, I’m looking at you and this video :
This 2014 Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition is a 16 Year Old (same age as their flagship single malt), bottled at 43% abv.
Color: Wild honey.
Nose: The iodine and sea salt are prominent, but can’t hide the fruitiness of this release. Cherry tobacco and whiffs of sherry mingle with hints of red apple and pineapple with some smoked ham in the mix as well.
Taste: The texture is almost a little slick, but gets dry and earthy quickly. Tobacco and leather dominate at first, but there is fruit in this that shines through the iodine and the sea air. This release isn’t as peaty and smoky as its island mates, Ardbeg and Laphroaig, but more of a smoked meat, like a Virginia ham. It also has a taste toward the end that I associate with many a bottle aged spirit (i.e. an old vintage bottle that’s been hidden away for years and opened for a special occasion).
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this release is a Lagavulin through and through. For this release, I think a drop of water improves this release. It tones down the earthier and perks up the sherry notes.
Finish: This finish reminds me of Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds” single. There is a fruity, white pepper spike at the end of this and then a fade out and then it comes back. Not quite as strong as the first time but more than a faint echo.
In general, Diageo’s Distiller’s Editions are where their distillers get a chance to play with their spirit. Most of Diageo’s Single Malts are set aside for their blends, leaving little for use beyond more than a few standard releases. That’s why you don’t have half a dozen Lagavulin or Oban releases each year. The spirit is wanted elsewhere. That means if you want to get a reasonably priced variant of Lagavulin, here is where you need to start.
It will vary. In the US you can find it for as little as $70 (and if you do, grab some for me!), but it can more often be had for around $80, and that is still a bargain in my mind. Sometimes this single malt is listed for as high as $120.