Last week we hosted a tasting with the original six Classic Malts, released in the Eighties by Diageo – but since it wasn’t enough for us, we decided to put a bonus: after the very first Lagavulin 16 yo, we tried its predecessor, this Lagavulin 12 yo imported in Italy by Montenegro. This is the bottling that stays on the shelves for the first half of the decade, sold after the old Laga 12 with the white label and, as we said, the new Lagavulin 16, introduced in 1987. Lagavulin’s malting floor closed in 1974, so there are good chances this is a “traditionally made” Laga. Stop the words, it’s time for history to speak.
N: extraordinary, very open and intense. What is really impressive at the very first nosing is the fruitiness, red, juicy fruit, and jammy too: cherries, incredible (do you like cherry marmalade?),
blackberries, both fresh and in jam. We only found this kind of notes in the glorious Bowmore
Bicentenary – enough said. We’re moving towards tougher notes, so we have a carpet of roasted chestnuts, then leather, pipe tobaccos and old wooden furniture. In the end, we approach the island: just a hint of tar, burnt earth, bacon (or better: an extinguished barbecue, with the pork fat still dripping…), some distant iodine notes. It’s not sea breeze, it’s better something like a rope soaked in sea water, maybe. Just a hint of eucalyptus. It’s not a brutal malt, quite the opposite: it’s elegant, intriguing and juicy…
P: equally intense and complex, with some important variations on the theme. First of all, Islay gains much more space: it’s saltier, it has some clear fish notes, it has a more “burnt” feeling (burnt wood), with a more active peat, ash, some medicinal notes… Excessive? Not at all, it saves a miracolous elegance, built on carobs, coffee, leather. The sweet side is less on black forest fruits (even if blackberries are there, undeniable – do you know those blackberry flavored gelées? Exactly), then there’s salted caramel, some burnt pie crust. And then chinotto, tamarind…
F: almost neverending, a natural, alive, ahsy and acrid peat lasts until the world stops turning. Burnt chestnuts again, sugared orange juice… To be honest, almost everything we found on the palate comes back – apart from the saltiness – and it’s something that’s pleasantly surprising.
We don’t have enough adjectives for this kind of stuff; what we really can’t process, ‘cause it’s beyond our reason, is that this was a damn ‘normal’ bottle, it was the core range of the distillery, it wasn’t a pricey single cask, a special release or whatever the contemporary market brought us. No, it was the only Lagavulin, simple as that. Scary drinkability, ghoulish intensity, shattering complexity: is it possible to get such a fresh, lively, juicy fruit alongside an heavy and yet delicate peat? Masterpiece. 94/100.
Sottofondo musicale consigliato: Captain Beefheart – Electricity.