Lagavulin is hollowed ground. The whisky is the perfect blend of sweet and peat, and we got to experience it as the sole guests for almost two hours on a damp November afternoon. We met Steph, our wonderful tour guide, in the gift shop. We were walking over from Laphroaig and didn’t have much else to do, so we were more than an hour early for our sensory tasting. Steph whisked us across the distillery to a sitting (and drinking) room next to the stills. Like many other distilleries (there used to be 23 on Islay alone) Lagavulin was largely sold as a blend, “White Horse” in Lagavulin’s case. The blend sold moderately, but not exceptionally well.
At Lagavulin we went straight into the “sensory tour” skipping the still room. The tour consisted of five drams, paired with a few bottles of things like malted barley to supposedly aid in detecting tastes of Lagavulin. Hard to say if it actually helped tasting or just primed me to taste things that everyone was describing.
We kicked things off with the Lagavulin 8 which Alfred Barnyard proclaimed in 1887 was his favorite whisky from the 200+ distilleries he visited. Lagavulin fortunately added this younger expression to its core range, and over the last year I’ve started seeing it pop up in more and more places.
Nose: malt + sea salt
Palate: Good dollop of smoke with sea salt and a light straw taste. Not early as smoky and iodin-ey as its next-door neighbor Laphroaig.
Finish: Short and light with toasty oak
The distillery’s classic expression.
Nose: Light peat, rich sugary malt.
Palate: Olive oil, big oaky hit, light pear notes.
Finish: Creamy, still olive oil that sits on the palate.
Lagavulin 16 Distiller’s Edition
I think this is also part of their core range now, comment below if I’m wrong (!)
Lagavulin is a blend of American and European oak casks, seasoned for 6 months in PX sherry casks.
Nose: Strong sherry nose, raisin, olive oil and butter. Big dose of peat hits after a second or so.
Palate: Lovely smoke and light malt. It’s like a weird European desert with honey olives and raisins that just works.
Finish: Same long peat smoke finish.
Scotch malt whiskey Society name: Poseidon’s honey jar
Lagavulin 12 – 56.5% ABV
A strong, cask strength expression of the classic malt.
Nose: Seaside tea smoked salt.
Palate: Hot and strong, with a lovely smoked under current and a massively malty taste.
Finish: Malty and honeyed, more full bodied than the 16 and a great way to get introduced to Lagavulin.
Lagavulin Jazz 17
In addition to the island’s famous Fais festival, Lagavulin holds an annual jazz fest. This dram came from last year’s festival and I definitely think the distillery saved the best for the last tasting.
Nose: Big classic Islay smoke
Palate: Like a pizza with a burnt crust and crushed red pepper flakes.
Finish: Smoke and bourbon.