Lagavulin 16yr Old Single Malt Scotch is a bit of a milestone whisky for the club. We wouldn’t even come near this bottle a year ago, but not just because it’s a heavily peated malt whisky. Whiskies like Lagavulin need to be taken seriously in order to be understood due to the complexity behind the thick smokiness (whiskies like this one have an acquired taste). According to whisky writer Michael Jackson, Lagavulin possessed at one point a reputation of having the “driest and most sustained attack of any available whisky.” While having a tremendously large following, however, it is also noted that Lagavulin has calmed itself down in recent years in terms of that previously mentioned attack and bold flavor profile. Regardless of where the flavor stands currently, Lagavulin still remains a highly rated and flavorful whisky. Why? Let’s go to some particulars…
This Islay Scotch whisky is used in blends but the majority of production is bottled into their single malt offerings. At 16 years old and despite the comparatively high peating level (certainly not the highest on Islay), the whisky as it stands is remarkably approachable. There is a grounded delicacy to its flavor due to the slow, drawn out distillation period giving the spirit a smoother, more rounded feel. Don’t misunderstand, though. There is still a lot of fight in this bottle.
A quick word on peating for those not familiar. Peat is semi carbonized vegetation laid down over thousands of years on boggy soil. This vast supply of peat (once widely used as a fuel) is cut and harvested into bricks to be used in the malting process. As the barley germinates in water, distilleries sometimes burn peat to dry the barley thus stopping further growth. The resulting smoke imparts very aromatic phenols that attach to the barley thus contributing to a bold, smoky flavor profile in the final spirit. Peated whiskies have very passionate and loyal followers, but sometimes consider themselves part of an exclusive class. The reason why, I think, is that there really isn’t an “in between” on peated whiskies: you either love it or refuse it. The non-peated side usually comes around when they are able to discover what is behind the peaty smoke, and the result can be rather wonderful. And in the case of our experience with Lagavulin, I think we found it!
SWC Group Review
Nose- Aromatic notes of campfire smoke, smoked meat with a medicinal touch. Hint of industrial smoke balanced with a delicious, mellow sweetness. Dried dark fruits of raisins and dates, mellowed and smooth.
Taste- Burst of honeyed sweetness with creamy fig and green apples. Smoky grain on the back end.
Palate– Medium to long. Clingy sweetness to seasoned meat with a medicinal hint. Develops to thick smoke and lingering oak. Delicious.
Comment– Simply stunning. Full of complex character and richness. Balanced and intriguing. But most of all, this beast from Islay is one of the most approachable we’ve ever tasted.
SWC Rating – 94/100
Avg. Retail – $90
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