How one can live for seven years knowing one has a sample of Lagavulin 37 in the cupboard, we really can’t tell you. What made us postpone the tasting we can’t reconstruct, even if we wanted to, because every possible reason (but no, let’s drink it next week, I want to enjoy it slowly; but no, it’s more urgent to review XY; but no, let’s wait, I’m not focused anymore) would pale in comparison to the magnitude of the liquid – or at least of its ID. Special Release 2013, Lagavulin 37 is a vintage from 1976, bottled at cask strength after almost forty years of resting in different barrels, whose identity is not specified. When it came out, at almost €1,200, the price seemed crazy: today that same figure seems almost normal, almost discounted – and in fact it regularly goes for between €2,500 and €3,000 at auction. We have waited too long: now let’s drink it up.
N: we were a little worried that the many years of sampling had spoiled it, but from the first sniff we realize that no, fortunately the liquid is intact. A monster, a real monster of complexity, so much so that we don’t even know where to start… There is a note, a patina of wax, of old paper, of old wooden furniture, which is really crazy – it is even crazier because suddenly, behind this first blanket, a frightening fruity dimension appears, typical of malts with such long ageing: there is tropical fruit, hypermature and sharp at the same time (maracuja, dried pineapple), which goes hand in hand with an intense, acrid smoke that is somewhere between a Caribbean cigar, a bonfire and a distinct sense of smoked tea, a lapsang souchong perhaps left to infuse a little too much. And the oysters? How can we fail to mention a marine, coastal, iodized and truly brackish soul? Incredible.
P: of extraordinary coherence with the nose. Over the years it has developed this fabulous compactness, in which a thousand apparently distant and almost incongruous suggestions live happily together. How else can you define a palate that tastes of dried apricots and oysters, pine needles and smoked tea, then wood and juicy, ripe fruit (peaches, maybe even mango), then light ink and soot, camphor and orange marmalade, shellfish and cooked apples… Enchanting, persuasive and also alive, very much so, still lively and nervous despite its 37 years of ageing. More cigar smoke, some herbaceous mineral notes, more astringent tannins (but without exaggerating), a nice burnt peat, the skin of barbecued fish…
F: ah, now we come to the finale: why, does it end? We would say not, in fact it is endless, very long, always divided between a smoky, salty plot and sugary, fruity characters, still with a small patina of mineral wax and beekeeping that is simply sensational. Chapeau. When, two hours later, it feels like it’s over, you actually realise that you still have a sense of acrid, petroleum, smoggy peat that never leaves you. Never. It’s still here, in fact.
There really isn’t much to say in the face of such a whisky, one just has to take one’s hat off to it and hope that there will be other occasions to spend time with a malt of such stature. Also a little embarrassing to give a rating – 94/100. A respectful silence.
Recommended soundtrack: Portishead – Glory Box.