Write up by Rashmi Narayan.
At the club’s Lagavulin tasting, we were off to a great start keeping spirits high before another Easter break under the current restrictions. This was a very special tasting as it was entirely crowd sourced by our members, so here’s raising our drams once again to all the legends that made this happen.
We also had a few attendees in the tasting who were new to Islay whiskies and Lagavulin in particular. Lagavulin is where my personal love for whisky began and it was great to learn that my co-host, the lovely CJ Singh @singlemaltvault’s interest in this whisky was more gradual.
Our exciting line-up for the night’s tasting was:
- Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition 43%
- Lagavulin 11 Offerman Edition 46%
- Lagavulin 20yo 54%
- Lagavulin 12yo 56%
- Lagavulin 10yo 57.1%
- Lagavulin 8yo 48%
Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition
A magnificent blend of classic Islay salty peat smoke and intense Sherried sweetness.
Nose: A good dram that is luxuriously rich to begin with and hints of fruitcake and gingerbread, rum-soaked raisins. Possibly one of the few with fruity elements on the nose.
Palate: Now the dram started getting bolder with pepper and clove spice arriving with peat, earthy and mossy and burnt embers.
Finish: Lingering rich molasses flavours and fresh eucalyptus note at the end.
Lagavulin 11yo Offerman Edition
When the pandemic hit us all last year, I took some time off in the summer and binge watched a series called ‘Parks and Recreation’ and co-incidentally, a character I grew fond of (Ron Swanson played by Nick Offerman) is an ardent Lagavulin fan in the show. That passion carried over to the real world where Offerman became a spokesman for the brand, starring in a series of hilarious videos titled My Tales of Whisky, in which he professes his love for the Lagavulin brand. Lagavulin and Nick Offerman partnered to launch Lagavulin Offerman Edition Aged 11 Years.
Many of us were completely new to this dram and overall, it was an interesting juxtaposition as it was quite different to Lagavulin 16, but also familiar. It is softer on the peat, more rounded with green and golden fruit with a particular smoothness.
Nose: A low driftwood bonfire along with kelp and sea mist. Then came in undertones of honey on toast.
Palate: Smokey, but slightly less than classic Lagavulin. Notes of honey and vanilla and a slight hint of pepper. Warmth of wood underlying. Sweetens with just a drop of water, bringing our notes of baked green apples and apricots.
Finish: Medium-long, the gentle peat lingering before giving way to a lovely lasting taste of honeyed fruits.
It’s a very inviting amber that’s matured in a combination of refill hogsheads and both Oloroso and PX sherry casks.
Nose: It is surprisingly soft with a discreet trace of smoke, a hint of orange peel, dried apricots and even some green herbs. After a few moments, some eucalyptus seemed to creep in. The Lagavulin DNA is pretty well hidden and it’s a very inviting dram.
Palate: A beautiful journey where it’s immediately sweet on the palate and very smoky. The nose did not prepare us for this. It then develops and becomes a textbook example of Lagavulin with those typical ashes, yet ending on a sweet note like candied fruit.
Finish: It’s a long finish where it’s dark and sweet yet has an everlasting touch of being both spicy and smoky leading to an absolutely fantastic mouthfeel.
After a brief breakout room session, we ventured on to the Lagavulin 10 and also talked about the Islay Festival of Music and Malt.
The 2020 Special Release Lagavulin 12 Year Old was aged in refill American oak casks, and packs plenty of smoky notes, though there’s also a combination of candied fruits and sweet spices.
Nose: Textbook Lagavulin, but dare I say, slightly bolder. Hint of peat and as one member said, even a brand new bean bag. There was also wet moss, green peppers and ship’s rope on the nose.
Palate: It is wholesome and immediately sweet on the palate, surprisingly so actually. Of course, the typical characteristics are there; tobacco, charcoal, salted caramel and charcoal. However many of us were pleasantly surprised by the fruity notes of pears, apricots and even a little lime juice.
Finish: The mouthfeel is very smoky and again surprisingly sweet. With a drop of water, it is quite grand and warming.
As quite a few of us had at some point experimented either out of choice or recommendation with the Lagavulin 8, this was our last dram of the night. Here’s where we all agreed on the ‘Easton Method’ (thanks to our member Easton Boyd) where we have a separate whisky glass for each dram, one to taste neat and one with water so that we could compare. We agreed that with sufficient glasses, the ‘Easton Method’ is very useful for future tasting events!
We had the single cask Lagavulin 10 year old The Exclusive Malts bottled for the Whisky Barrel. Overall, it’s a glorious combination of sweet, salt and spicy notes, all wrapped up with fragrant peat smoke. Some of us agreed that we found the whisky very special.
Nose: A gentle sea breeze and then a little rock salt along with some burnt sugar and maritime peat smoke and even some hint of camphor.
Palate: Sweet and salty, with a good kick of chilli pepper, followed by roasted almonds and more smoke.
Finish: A creamy, smoky and spicy finish. The pepperiness seemed to linger but many of us didn’t mind it.
This was my go-to whisky when I was in University, where even if I was as poor as a church mouse, I’d save up to buy a bottle of this and keep it hidden from my friends. It has a fragrant, tea-scented smoke alongside maritime aromas that are unlocked with a drop of water.
Nose: Immediately quite soft with clean, fresh notes, a subtle hint of lemon. It’s not very fruity but there’s just a trace of tartness, a sour berry preserve, perhaps, beneath the smokiness, which comes sharply into focus.
Palate: A soothing light texture, with a full-on Lagavulin feature that was somehow even grander than we expected. Dry, sweet, smoky and warming, with an ever-growing smoky pungency. Then comes a tongue-tingling mint flavour balancing it with salty undertones.
Finish: This was a clean finish. The minted smoke remained leaving a warming, late drying note. This was enjoyed by some, but many were still thinking of the previous drams that left them happier.
Dram of the Night: A landslide victory for the Lagavulin 20 proving to be a clear favourite. The magnificently classic dram with a dark and sweet twist won many hearts. The nose kept us all guessing, but on the palate it was a flavour bomb and the finish was more of a grand finale. The Offerman edition, though well received, failed to garner a vote, yet we respectfully agreed that we will give it a try again at some point.
The next club tasting returns virtually with a special evening of Adelphi & Ardnamurchan. Expect a stunning line up recent releases and some exceptional single cask selections on Wednesday 14th of April at 8.30pm.