The last of the four bottles opened in the last Monday tasting was this Lagavulin 21 yo, matured in sherry casks (spanish oak): 6642 bottles produced, all of them disappeared from the market. Lagavulin stopped selling casks to independent bottlers years ago (and in the few cases, bottlers are not allowed to use distillery name on the label), and the official bottlings are rare, too. Anyway, they’re all outstanding, starting from the Classic Malt 16 yo, that for many of us was a revelation on the road to Damascus. Thanks to it, we changed our trip choosing Edinburgh as our destination and we understood that Scotch is all well and good. This 21 yo is venerated, let’s check if this collective admiration is justified: the colour is a light copper and it seems to shout “sherry” from the rooftops.
N: at the beginning, even if the ABV is not aggressive, the nose is quite close.
Tobacco, cigar and leather stand out. Peaty and mineral. We recognize the traditional Laga smokiness, light at the moment, that surrounds the sherry notes: wax and matches, with a sulphury side very delicate and delightful, never annoying. It smells like the rain on the cobblestone path in your garden, come on, you know it! That sense of closure we mentioned before is actually an abstract idea of humidity. Slowly, the fruity side peeps: candied bitter orange and orange peel in chocolate; shy red berries, smeared by mineral and tobacco notes. Bitter, pure licorice. Warm panettone. It needs time to show a balsamic character, too (eucalyptus more than menthol). Oak, deliciously spiced: star anise, light hints of cinnamon. Overall, excellent interaction between sherry and peated malt; never ending evolution.
P: yummy. It evolves through blazes. It’s cask strength, but it doesn’t need any water. It’s a wonderful islander, with varied smoky notes: ashes, coal, burnt wood. The peat is tough, very present. All around, a gorgeous, bitter-sweetness, still focused on orange marmalade and dark fruits (blackberries). Slightly spicy, probably pepper and ginger.
F: never ending dream. Ripe strawberry, red berries chocolate; again licorice. Above all, Islay notes really stand out: plenty of peat, a charming smoke: bonfire on the beach (or is it a BBQ? We could almost taste the grilled meat…). The sea DNA comes exactly from here (dried seaweed, not sea salt).
Yes, the Lagavulin religion is justified. It’s a merely amazing whisky, but when we talk about balance and harmony it’s forbidden to think about a smooth and tame. Actually, its best quality is a lovely roughness, indeed. As the peated/smoky soul and the sherried one were a couple of passionate lovers. It’s useful to note that the malt evolution is truly impressive and the water is completely unnecessary despite the high ABV. We could go on smelling and sipping it for hours. It better be rare… Our vote is 94/100: Serge agrees with us (finding similarities with its judgments is always reassuring… it means that our thoughts are not completely random!), and even Jim Murray on his Whisky Bible (the 2010 edition: in the 2011 one he writes the “wrong” judgment of the previous year but with updated votes… come on Jim, let’s be careful!) insists on its delicious wild and edgy side.
Sottofondo musicale consigliato: Kristin Asbjornsen – I wish to weep,