16 years old, 43% ABV, Islay, Scotland
My first encounter with the Lagavulin 16 year old was at the end of a memorable meal at a great little Spanish restaurant called MoVida.
A week went by and I couldn’t shake the thought of that intriguingly smokey-sweet dram I’d had, so I soon found myself at a local bottle shop purchasing my first Islay whisky.
Although the Lagavulin bottle shape is shared with a number of Diageo’s other single malts (such as Caol Ila, Talisker, Cragganmore and Royal Lochnager), the green tinted glass and two-piece parchment style label go a long way to making it stand out as unique.
After peeling back the foil there’s a seal over the top of the cork which is a nice touch – a hangover from the pre-foil days I suspect. I’ve contacted Lagavulin to try and find out the significance of this little lion character, but have had no luck as of yet.
Did you know…
The barley used for Lagavulin is produced at Port Ellen Maltings.
A common misconception is that the germinating barley is dried over a peat fire. At Port Ellen Maltings the barley is dried using hot air produced by oil burners and the peat fire underneath the kiln is only there to impart the smokiness we associate with some of the great Islay whiskies.
If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, this great video gives you a behind the scenes look at Port Ellen Maltings.
Waves of organic peat smoke – Think salty smoke notes, with ash and some sweetness. There’s a really nice balance between the three S’s – smoke, sweetness and salt – with none of the three completely dominating the nose.
Friends and family have used terms like ‘industrial, old oil lamp and mechanics workshop’ to describe the nose on this! Probably not far off, but it’s much more refined and alluring than those terms suggest.
Initially quite oily with some sweetness at the front of the tongue. This is followed by a wave of salty saline notes, peat or ash and some warm prickling, not necessarily from the alcohol though. I almost feel as though it’s the kind of tongue prickling burn you get from something heavily cured or brined.
Residual sweetness, really light menthol notes and waves of peat smoke every time you exhale. That wonderful peat smoke fades to lingering salty finish with some faint bitter notes.
A newly opened Lagavulin 16 hits you with waves and waves of smoke, fresh out of the bottle. I found that pure smoky magic faded rather quickly once the bottle had been opened for a few months, but at the same time it has matured a fair amount and has a lovely balance to it.
Make no mistake, you can still smell this one from the coffee table once you’ve poured a dram and sat back in your chair!