Lagavulin is one of the three distilleries active on the Southern coast of Islay (with Laphroaig and Ardbeg), and it releases very few bottlings on the market: the “classic” 16 years old is a real reference point, perhaps together with Talisker 10 years it’s the best whisky on the market as value for money. Since 2002 – and every year since then – Diageo has been offering a 12-year-old cask strength among its Special Releases: today we’re tasting the 2009 version, proposed at last Monday’s tasting. The colour is very light straw yellow.
N: without water, the smoke seems light at first, but it gets stronger with time: extinguished fireplace, half-burnt wood… The sweetness (on vanilla) is a bit abstract for now, because what really dominates is the medicinal and marine dimension (iodine). With water, it opens on a delicate heather; the sweetness remains light but ‘warm’ (cotton candy, marshmellow). There are no fruity notes, rather vegetal: burnt brushwood?
P: good body, creamy; the smokiness is constant, nicely tough, even if gentle (it wouldn’t be an oxymoron). It has some salty tips, but mostly it moves in vegetable territories. It is closed, compact, but very drinkable even if cask strength. With water, the sweetness opens up, there is a sugarness difficult to define, but it’s all on the floral, “green” side (did you eat flowers as children?); tea leaves.
F: pure Islay. Very little sweetness, plenty of peat. Nice and persistent. Lemon? Very vegetal, again; bitter almond.
Very good. Different from the more mature 16 years old, which is definitely sweeter: this 12 years old is really ‘vegetal’ (have we already used this adjective in the review, by any chance?). Gorgeous and very “clean”: it’s also a real islander, it will certainly drive crazy the lovers of peated malts; we perfectly agree with Serge when he proposes the definition of “naked glory”. If it also had a more structured sweetness (bourbon has very little effect), it would be absolutely fantastic in our opinion. That’s why we “limit” ourselves to 88/100. Ruben thinks so.
Recommended soundtrack: Joni Mitchell – Blue, title track of the album with the same name.