Age: 16 years old
Lagavulin is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range. This of course means that its standard expression is treated to a finish in something sweet and juicy, and bottled as a Distillers Edition. For other Diageo stalwarts such as Oban (Montilla Fino) and Cragganmore (Port), these periods of extra maturation have been hugely successful. To me Lagavulin is undeniably the best whisky in the Classic Malts series, and the Distillers Edition does not disappoint. Finished in casks that previously held Pedro Ximénez sherry, this Lagavulin is both mellower and richer than its 16 year old sibling, which already provides a complexity rarely seen in other Islay distilleries.
This particular release was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2016, the year in which Lagavulin celebrated its 200th anniversary. The Distillers Edition was not the official anniversary bottling though, with that honour being shared by Lagavulin’s 8 and 25 year old limited editions. Even so, this year’s Distillers Edition is as good as any the distillery has produced, so be sure to give it a try.
Colour: Sunset amber
Nose: Sweet and beautifully fragrant, with a nice maritime kick to it. The smoky aromas are unmistakable, but more of a barbecued meat variety, rather than the medicinal kippers we’re used to from Lagavulin. Scents of walnut and raisins underscore that the Pedro Ximénez casks have done their job. So far this is absolutely wonderful, really promising!
Palate: This Lagavulin envelops you like a smoky hug, comforting yet invigorating. Inside the embrace of peaty goodness are flavours of dark chocolate and raspberries, with a hint of Lapsang souchong. An earthy profile is never far off, accentuated by a beguiling mixture of tar and toffee. Outstanding!
Oh wait, you’re still here? Wow, that finish just lasted! Ashy yet fruity at the same time, this Lagavulin is somehow best characterised as a charred fruit tree. The oaky aftertaste is so thick you can almost chew it, and lingers endlessly like only a great Islay whisky can. Simply sublime!
Verdict: I’m still smitten by that finish. That’s where this Lag truly shines, and given how good this dram is elsewhere, that’s really saying something. The Distillers Edition takes what is an absolutely gorgeous whisky (the 16 year old) and makes it even better. The flavour intensity of PX casks means that they only really work on big, muscular whiskies, and with Lagavulin it’s a match made in heaven. The result is a wonderfully complex whisky, that’s perhaps more mellow than the 16 year old, but still hugely satisfying.
Is the Distillers Editions worth the extra money over the 16 year old..? Well, that really depends on how much of your hard-earned cash you’re willing to part with. In my mind, Lagavulin Distillers Edition is the better whisky hands down. A stunning achievement by Lagavulin and a good example that Diageo’s Distillers Editions are more than just a clever marketing strategy.