Feis Ile is approaching, and, like every year, we are sadly in Milan. However, we decide to face melancholy with one of the most celebrated bottlings of last Feis Ile, namely an 18-year-old Lagavulin, a blend of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon refill barrels. We choose Lagavulin also because tomorrow will take place be a tribute to the history of the distillery at Harp Pub: a tasting in which a 12-year-old White Horse and the very first 16 years bottled in 1987 will be opened. But come on, let’s get back to the present…
N: what an impact! A blanket of thick smoke with peat, almost reminiscent of an extinguished cigar, ashes still alive, embers… The sea in its forms, or rather the Scottish beach: there is seaweed in the sun, there is brackish air. On the ‘sweetness’ side we don’t find great creamy explosions, but a sense – extraordinarily vivid – of paradise cake, and then also a freshly baked doughnut. The citrus fruit, on the other hand, is warm, not lemon but mandarin, or blood orange. We would do this whisky a disservice if we forgot those hints of undergrowth, conifers, pine needles. That’s excellent.
P: intense and compact, splendid indeed. One exciting explosion of flavors, all linked together… Peat and sea, minerality and saltiness are once again devastating, with wood and burnt seaweed, and endless ash. Something vaguely medicinal. Then there is candied cedar to stir on the stage, again the paradise cake, icing sugar; even the cereal shows off cheeky, simulating a youth that is already gone. Vanilla and sponge cake, perhaps condensed milk? And then again the balsamic side, beautifully focused on the pine. The water placates an already delicate sweetness, enhancing its edges and acidity and making it much more citrusy.
F: infinite, very intense. Ashes, burnt, coastal. Very refined, in its way it is of a delicate brutality.
93/100, it is almost perfect. It offers you everything you could wish from an Islay malt, and it does with the wild, endgy elegance that perhaps only Lagavulin is able to put in the field. Varying, complex, intense, compact, islander… We repeat, we couldn’t ask for more from a whisky like this.
Recommended soundtrack: Genesis – The return of the giant Hogweed.