Review #18: Exclusive Malts – Isle of Islay

The story: As mentioned in the Lagavulin 16 review, we have been doing side-by-side comparisons of the Lagavulin bottlings we have. It’s been incredibly fun and educational, and the 16 serves as an excellent reference point. We saved the best for last: the Exclusive Malts sherry cask bottling.

The end rankings were as follows:

  1. Exclusive Malts Isle of Islay
  2. Lagavulin 18 (2018 Feis)
  3. Lagavulin 16
  4. Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition 2017

Exclusive Malts Isle of Islay (left) and Lagavulin 16 (right). Darker color on the Exclusive Malts because of the pure sherry cask.
Exclusive Malts Isle of Islay (left) and Lagavulin 16 (right). Darker color on the Exclusive Malts because of the pure sherry cask.

Exclusive Malts - Isle of Islay Review
  • Score - 9/10

Tasting Notes

Nose: Rubbing alcohol and sherry, medicinal buttered popcorn, and the buttery smell of cherry red licorice twizzlers at the end combined with light fragrant wood. Like smelling a Scottish warehouse. Some cold cave must but also lovely sherry notes.

Palate: Spice(!) with buttery popcorn and chocolate. Heavy sherry influence with dark fruits and caramel on mid-palate. Some cinnamon red heat without water, but it’s not a bad heat. Wonderful oily mouthfeel.

With water – opens it up: Caramel and butterscotch, with light licorice and ash and tannic wood aftertaste.

By far, my favorite of the Lagavulin tastings that I’ve had. It has the peat-and-sweet combo that I crave. You can add water – but it tastes lovely even without.


TLDR: “Port Ellen Movie Theater.” Overview: There’s a lot going on in this. Some tastes are buttered popcorn, some are red licorice, and all are medicinal. If you like peat bombs and sherry bombs, this is for you.

Bought for: $150/bottle at the Whisky Shop (San Francisco)


Additional Information

  • 10 years and distilled in 2007
  • Single cask of ex-sherry hogshead
  • ABV 55.7%
  • 295 bottles of this cask (Cask 105)

About Lagavulin and Exclusive Malts:

  • We visited the distillery! Our recap of the distillery, where we did the tasting and nosing class, is here.
  • Exclusive Malts does not disclose the distillery, but the Whisky Shop in SF cheekily gives heavy insinuations to the origin of each bottle by interspersing independent bottles around the store – and on the row as specific distilleries
  • DO: Note the cask. This Isle of Islay 2007 in refill Hogsheads as reviewed by Malt Review. This is aged in a sherry cask instead.
  • There is another Isle of Islays in 2008 that is attributed to Caol Ila. We believe the 2007 to be Lagavulin because the owner of the US distributor for Exclusive Malts (who is often present at the Whisky Shop) hinted at it.

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