Taste Review #11 – Lagavulin 16.
One of the biggest surprises for me in my whisky journey is that I’ve never really had much time for Lagavulin. I’ve been a little bit blinkered and have wondered between Laphroaig, Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain when considering the delights that the Islay region of Scotch whiskies has to offer. I’ve never tasted a Port Ellen or Kilchoman and haven’t seen much in Bowmore or Caol Ila. Ardbeg is just a little over rated.
With so much spectrum across the Scottish Whisky scene, it is easy to get caught into your favourites, and not look beyond them. This is another reason why I started Scotty’s Drams – to force myself out of my whisky comfort zone and try other things. After all, if I keep reviewing the same things, it won’t be worth writing!
Lagavulin I have often seen described as a complex malt, and not one for beginners. I’m not into that sentiment, as while somebody just starting out in Scotch Whisky – in particular the peat monsters of Islay, may miss some of the flavours, this would not in any way stop you enjoying what you are drinking – there’s a lot of flavours to get!
Complexity is something that confuses me a bit, as I am always wondering what I may be missing. As I completed this taste test, I have to admit that I had the beginnings of a summer cold, and perhaps I did miss some of the flavour notes, but this is a bold whisky, and in order to miss the tastes and aromas, you’d need to have had your head cut off. It’s definitely in your face.
The bottle I have for tasting is not the full size bottle but is the 20CL bottle, which is better value for me. This was bought at the Dalwhinnie Distillery.
This bottle of Lagavulin has an age statement of 16 y.o.
Oh wow! There is a lot going on here! Plenty of smoke, a touch of iodine. Salt air and seaweed, perhaps kippers, yet still sweet. Very enticing.
On arrival I got hints of smokey wood, peat, then hit with a sweetness. Bit of sherry there I think too. Lapsang Souchong notes in it. With water added, the toasted oak could be experienced.
A pleasantly long finish. Peat smoke dominates, but it’s not overpowering at all. Spicy, fruit finish with vanilla.
Is this whisky complex? Yes, it is. But only in the vast contrasts in taste. The smokey sweetness is surprising. The main flavours you cannot escape, even with a cold. It is a very intriguing malt to drink. However there are things for me that knock this malt back a few points, even though I never score my whisky. Firstly, being a malt of the Diageo stable, if it doesn’t say that it’s natural colour, or non-chill filtered, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is E150 in the mix and it has been chill filtered, which is my second point. I added a bit of water which was at room temperature, and there was no appearance of ‘Scotch Mist’ which often happens in lower strength whiskies that haven’t been chill filtered.
While I wonder if the use of colour is just to guarantee consistency across batches, I do wonder more at the decision to chill filter this whisky. I am thinking if I am missing a little bit of flavour, and if Diageo are missing a trick. Perhaps serving us the dram at 46% and dropping the chill filtration will be a good start.
Nonetheless, it is still enjoyable to drink. While tasting it, the salty notes along with the smoke made me think that it would go well with a strong cheese, blue cheese in particular. And in the end, the only thing I would say about it not being a good beginners whisky is the strong flavours, but that’s just a matter of opinion.
I have seen other opinions on other blogs that Lagavulin 16 suffers from batch inconsistency in recent times, but I haven’t been able to say that, as I am not a regular enough drinker of this malt. However, I would buy this again and despite me thinking it’s a bit over rated, I would recommend this whisky
My 20CL bottle cost me £16, but a full size 70CL bottle is available about the £60 mark in the UK, which for a 16 year old whisky is reasonable value.
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