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Lagavulin 12 yo ‘White Horse Distillers’ (anni ’70, OB, 43%)

There’s no need to present the distillery, which is – deservedly – one of the most famous in the world: but two words for this bottle, yes, must be spent. We’re in the Seventies, and people in Italy drink a lot of whisky: Carpano, apart from producing the famous Vermouth, imports in Italy the official 12 years old bottling by Lagavulin. We’re in the early Seventies, and we know it because on the label there are red writings, and not grey, as it will be in the last versions of this label before moving to the famous creamy label with green writings on it, at the beginning of the Eighties. This bottle is liquid history: in 1965 Lagavulin dropped the direct fired still introducing steam heating –
this was most definitely distilled before that date. Well, let’s get our eyes low, let’s open our nose, let’s start the trip.

Lagavulin-12-y.o.-White-Horse-Carpano-Import-e1430913261743

N: tremendous complexity, it doesn’t seem to have lost anything of its original aromatic spectrum,
in the 40 years spent in gass (even if ok, we’ll never know, we weren’t even alive in the Seventies).It’s tough to make order in this nose, because everything comes compact at the same time, but let’s try. Very coastal, almos salty; there isn’t the powerful smoke that we find in modern Islayers, but still there’s some gunpowder, a bit of distant but intense and acrid smoke (smog, but very gentle… Paradoxical indeed). Then you step into a wonderful sugary show, with carobs, licorice, dried plums, sponge cake, chocolate (we may be heretical, but… this note reminds us of Fiesta). All this comes as it was shaded and shielded by lovely and inebriating dirty notes, there’s leather, old dusty books, tea leaves; wax (or better: waxed oilcloth, do you rember Barbours?). Spices from the wood. Chinotto. Impressive.

P: body seems easy, and it’s very drinkable; but damn, how many stories in a single dram! Stunning complexity, impressive intensity. It starts on that peculiar waxiness that we can only find in old whiskies (wax, beeswax); it evolves towards sweet notes, with fruit and sweet wood (salted licorice, carobs, persimmons, tarte tatin, caramelised apples), and then, at a certain point… BAM!, a deep and elegant smokiness explodes. It reminds us of pork on embers, it’s just fantastic stuff.
Again very salty and costal. Tea. Oh my god…

F: an infinite mix of smoke, pepper, sugared tea, chinotto… Lingering as a back pain, intense like a well-placed uppercut. What really stuns us – apart from the fact that the glass is empty now – is that this Lagavulin was a bottle to be drunk, at night, talking about the Communist threat in Italy, about the Kippur War, terrorism, Jim Morrison’s death, psychedelic drugs, your cousin that fell from the bike, that outrageous girl with the bob and those unforgettable thighs, about the Watergate and the tropps in Vietnam, about last sunday’s football match… Well, it was meant to be drunk, to be consumed, it wasn’t a sort of god to be idolized – and the palate really revealed it. We can’t do anything but dry our tears in front of such a compexity monster and carve in stone this tremendous 95/100. Thanks to Salvatore Mannino from La Maison du Whisky for this sample.

Recommended soundtrack: The Doors – Riders on The Storm.

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