Latest entry only, the rest is on the full website. Santé!

September 1, 2015


Indie Lagavulin, most undercover

There was a poll in the Malt Maniacs’ Facebook group (almost 9000 members), and the question was ‘what’s your favourite Islay distillery?’ Quite surprisingly, and although I might well agree, Lagavulin came out as #1, despite the very low number of available expressions. Granted, that may change if they ever replace the much loved 16 with some kind of NAS (like, Dunnyvaig Gold or something), but despite 'rampaging rumours', it seems that there's no such thing in sight AFAIK, which is just super-mega-hyper great news. So let’s celebrate this non-event with a few… Lagavulin (like)!

Finlaggan 'Old Reserve' (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005)

Finlaggan 'Old Reserve' (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005) Four stars and a halfNobody knows if this is really Lagavulin, what’s rather sure is that the bottlers, of Coopers Choice fame, do hold or did hold contracts with Lagavulin (or White Horse, or Diageo's predecessors) and so ‘could’ have bottled Lagavulin under another name. But nothing is dead sure… Anyway, they might have switched to Caol Ila, but perhaps not in 2005, which was rather one or two years before the gold rush. Colour: gold. Nose: that it could be Lagavulin is obvious. It’s got his very peculiar peaty sweetness and the touches of tar and ‘good’ rubber that do hint at the star distillery indeed. And orange cake, praline, earl grey tea, smoky raisins… We’re not even far from the 16, mind you, but of course I could be wrong. Mouth: it’s true that we’re going a wee bit more towards Caol… No, wait, this ought to be Lagavulin. Orange liqueur and strong lapsang plus a drop of brine and pepper liqueur. The fatness behind speaks, and I do not know of many other distilleries that would taste like 45% vol. when bottled at 40% vol. Finish: quite long, a tad saltier. Comments: I wouldn’t stake my life on it, but… Oh and it was an exceptional whisky! SGP:457 - 88 big fat points.

Wait, we’ve even got the old 10…

Finlaggan 10 yo (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005)

Finlaggan 10 yo (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: well, as much as I thought the NAS could well be Lagavulin, I think this may well not be L, although I think this nose is quite lovely, with unexpected notes of strawberry ice cream (or sweets). Can you burn strawberries? Smoke strawberries? Having said that, it’s unlikely that it’s not another single Islay distillery. Hmmmm, which one could it be? Perhaps Caol Ila indeed, perhaps not… Mouth: a little burnt again, leafy, cake-y, tea-ish… And caramelly. Not too sure about this one, I think I liked the NAS rather better (yup, Serge speaking). Having said that, it’s got some very pleasant salty/orange-y notes, it’s like drinking earl grey tea on the beach. While smoking a pipe of… What? Of course tobacco. Finish: good length, salty, herbal. We’re wandering around herbal teas and smoked seaweed. Comments: a crying shame that I haven’t got any older bottling of Finlaggan Cask Strength handy. SGP:545 - 82 points.

Classic of Islay 14 yo 2006 (60.5%, Jack Wiebers, cask #1033, sherry finish)

Classic of Islay 14 yo (60.5%, Jack Wiebers, cask #1033, sherry finish, 2006) Four stars and a halfOf course we couldn’t be sure ither. This could be something else, let’s see… (but the odds are, well…) Colour: gold. Nose: huge, massive, with this je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it very… ach, hem, Lagavulin. Say a lighter Distiller’s Edition, but at cask strength. Does that make any sense? Rocks, leather, new scuba diving suit (to go get the scallops in the bay, eh), roasted chestnuts, brown coal, new ink (this week’s magazines)… And all that. With water: sharp, mineral, perhaps a tad less sweet than the ‘usual’ Lagavulin, but we’re there. Love the nut peelings and the porridge covered with smoked… say fish? Mouth (neat): high power. It’s the annual official 12yo cask strength, plus a bit of raisiny/leathery sherry. You can’t fight against this. With water: you just can’t. It’s perhaps a little brutal, and it’s probably not one to sip while you’re meditating (or reading the Best Of Kierkegaard), but this joyful smoky thing just works and you’d better not resist it, or it’ll smash you. Also melons (I mean, there are notes of melons). Finish: long, unexpectedly leafy and ‘greenly rubbery’. I’m not too fond of the finish, I have to say. Comments: well, with a better finish, it would have made it to 90. SGP:557 - 89 points.

Good, how do you fight that? Perhaps with this?...

Lagavulin 10 yo 2005/2015 (60.3%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #200802)

Lagavulin 10 yo 2005/2015 (60.3%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #200802) Two stars What this exactly is, I don’t quite know. An independent micro-bottling of some sort, that you could find at Master of Malt a few weeks back. What’s sure is that it proudly displays the name ‘Lagavulin’! Colour: white wine. Nose: you know, when you’re visiting the distillery, and after you’ve spent a little time with the utterly lovely and terribly knowledgeable (and energetic) Georgie (not that one mind you), you might end up trying whiskies with Pinkie-the-Great, who’s got his engaging face in more lifestyle magazines than both Donald Trump and Brad Pitt. And he’ll let you try this. I mean, something similar, that is to say a young, sweet and smoky malt that’s perhaps not very mature, and probably not totally complex, but one that’ll instantly pleasure you with its sweetness and its smokiness. Long story short, it’s probably one of the least complex whiskies I could try this year (so far), and yet it works sort-of a treat. No, you do not need descriptors. With water: smoked Williams pear eau-de-vie. In a way, this is more Alsatian – or Mitteleuropaisch – than from Islay. Mouth (neat): aged new make, sure. Raw stuff that lacks aging, that constantly hits you between your ears, and that keeps throwing williams pears and pineapples at you. Perhaps is it frankly too young, what do you say? With water: nah, it’s not bad, it’s just immature. A Miley Cyrus of a whisky. A great distillate that’s not been properly aged is still a great distillate, but it couldn’t become the greatest whisky ever – if you ask me. Finish: long, fruity and smoky. Or smoky and fruity, whichever you like best. Comments: I have no serious objections, but even if it’s Lagavulin, I wouldn’t pay 130€ for a bottle of new make, however excellent it is. SGP:637 - 75 points.

This is becoming touchy. I guess this last one will be even touchier…

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 2’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2014)

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 2’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2014) Four stars More a joke than anything else – they’ve always been good at that in Bonn-Bad-Godesberg (apologies ;-)). Having said that, I had enjoyed batch #1 quite a lot (WF 90). And yes this is L*g*v*l*n. Colour: gold. Nose: an old bottle of 16, with perhaps even hints of the last pre-16 12s. Something a wee bit metallic (old copper coins), some leather, some teas, some smoked fish, some overripe apples and other juicy fruits as well (pears for sure), plus a wee feeling of leatherette straight from f***g Amazon’s. Mouth: how excellent! It’s a crying shame that our friends aus Bonn haven’t bottled this at 46 or, better yet, 50% vol. But remember, this is a joke… Great wee whisky, salty, pretty oily… With an obvious cousinage with the first Finlaggan we tried. Finish: same (is that really all, S.?) Comments: perhaps not the place and neither the moment to tell you this, but whenever you come across a cheap bottle of NAS Finlaggan that looks a little dusty, please just buy it (them)! SGP:457 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Lagavulin I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jane Bunnett. Track: Maqueque. Please visit his website and buy his music...


Copyright Serge Valentin, Nick Morgan and all the Malt Maniacs