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Monday, June 13, 2016

Single Malt Report: Lagavulin 8 year old 200th Anniversary Limited Edition

2016 marks Lagavulin distillery's 200th birthday.  In honor of that nice big round number they released......an eight year old whisky.  My first reaction was, hee hee wut?

Last year, Laphroaig dropped a whole slew of celebratory releases of different ages for their 200th birthday.  For Ardbeg's 200th birthday, the distillery released an odd mish mosh NAS whisky which was their worst Ardbeg Day release yet.  So Lagavulin (read: Diageo) took this third approach.  They put out an 8 year old (age statement!) whisky at a respectable ABV (48%) and keep the fake colorant out of it.  I appreciated those three factors, but it still seemed like a "oh crap we need to release something" approach.  The good news is that it doesn't cost $100.  The less than good news is that it seems to go for relatively the same $$$ as the regular 16 year old.  The best news is that it's good whisky.

Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Maturation: refill American oak and European oak casks
Age: minimum 8 years
Release date: 2016
Limited edition: 20,000 bottles
Chill-filtration? No Possibly
Caramel coloring? No Yep, mit farbstoff, as per German retailers
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
(sample provided by Brett from his own purchased bottle. Thanks, Brett!)

The color is a very light amber.  No e150a here.

The nose leads with peat smoke (duh), anise, hay, boat fuel exhaust, and cocoa powder.  Then toasted bread crusts and dried seaweed with hints of dried lavender and raisins.

There's a good rich tobacco note in the palate which is joined by mint and basil leaves.  A light herbal bitter nip is met well with a mellow sweetness.  With time, a smoked almond note develops.  The peat rings in loudly but it never overwhelms the rest of these characteristics.

Peat and salt arrive and stay the longest in the long finish.  Some black pepper, good bitterness, and dried cherries appear as well.  That peat gradually shifts from smoke to ash.

WITH WATER (~43%abv)
The nose is similar to its neat state.  Maybe a little more floral, with hints of dried stone fruits and dried berries, along with a whisper of vanilla.

Not much change in the palate either.  More smoked nuts, more smoke, and some lemon tartness.  It does seem to pick up a thicker mouthfeel.

The finish is similar too.  Slightly bitterer and tarter with a new smoked nuts note.

Like last year's Laphroaig releases, this Lagavulin seems scheduled to hit the California shelves last.  First it shows up in the UK, then Europe, then East Coast USA, then The Midwest USA.  There must be some distribution issues going on, again.

Anyway, I like this whisky.  It's a brisk raw alternative for those who love the 16yo.  It's also sort of a lighter version of their annual 12yo Cask Strength edition, though due to its age and lack of oak influence it's anything but soft.  Having now tried it, I do appreciate that Lagavulin elected to release this whisky and I wish they'd make it a regular member of the range.  Which, of course, they won't.

If you can find it for under $60, and you're a fan of the 12yo, then I recommend this one.  But if you're seeing it selling for $70+ -- 20,000 bottles is not that limited and this stuff is all of 8 years old -- then you might want to split a bottle with some friends.  Or just not buy it.  That'll be my own approach.

Availability - East Coast USA and Europe
Pricing - $55 (yay) - $80 (boo)
Rating - 87


  1. "Then toasted breast crusts..."
    Not being pedantic; it's just that the imagery has traumatized me :(

    Haven't seen this one yet over here, but am hoping to get a bottle in the near future as I've heard only positive things about it.

    1. Holy crap. Just changed it. Thank you.

      The whisky is good, and its spirit-heavy nature is much appreciated. It (like the 12yo CSes) isn't really that limited, so hopefully the price will be on the lower side in Japan.

  2. Drinking this tonight (I purchased a bottle) and finding it pretty smoky on the palate. Also, a bit underwhelming on the whole. Review should be up Monday.

    1. Looking forward to your review. I had another pour of it while at the distillery. While I still like it, I'm not going to buy a bottle until I can find it for $60 or less. Hopefully you got a good deal on your bottle.

  3. Nice review! Just curious, did you hear/read directly somewhere that this is NCF with no E-150? I have heard conflicting reports, but everything seems like speculation. Did you hear this from someone at Diageo?

    1. Hey Zack. You know what, I'm seeing 'mit farbstoff' on German retail sites, so this does have colorant. And also while I was at the distillery tasting, Iain McArthur made a passing comment about how the company chillfilters ALL of their Lagavulins. I asked him if that included the cask strength stuff and he said yeah. I find that very strange, but since it's Diageo I can't deny that that's possible. So I'm going to change my notes on this post. Thank you for your comment.

    2. For the record Michael, 'since its Diageo', none of our cask-strength Lagavulins are chill-filtered. The 8 year old, which was not cask-strength, was chill-filtered. Neither of the two bottlings of the 8 year old had any added colouring. Nick Morgan

  4. Definitely chill-filtered..... Where is Diageo going with this? It's only Malt-mates who actually know what Scotch mist is (and the craft and quality it represents) that buy such bottles. We don't add ice, and if we did we wouldn't retreat from our Glencairn like King Arthur and his knights in Monty Python's Holy Grail (Run away! Run away!).

    1. I have no idea why the hell they're chillfiltering even the whisky geek stuff. They own some of the best distilleries on the planet and they keep f'ing with their whiskies' presentation. There's really no knowing how much better their releases would be (especially since they've started stiffing the indie bottlers) had they not been filtering the life out of them.

    2. Everything whisky that Diageo does is blended-centered. It seems to me that they are doing their hardest not to create a single malt vs. blended whisky divide, whereby people start asking, if you don't add caramel and don't chill-filter your SM, why do you mess with the blended whiskies? They are educating their audience down, not up. (I don't think they call it 'education' but 'obedience training'.) Once the Pope comes around gay marriage, priest celibacy, and contraception, the pressure will be on the High Priest of Whisky, Nick the 1st, to consider some changes of Diageo Dogma.

      Damn, Kravitz, you turned me into an anti-Diageo fighter!

    3. Dr. Nick has almost singlehandedly kept me anti-Diageo. Well, him plus the terrible presentation of their single malts. Next time Diageo wants to cut costs and rethink their relationship with the public, perhaps they could discover they'd do well without his salary.

  5. Hi there,

    it is not mit Farbstoff! We Germans are one of asfaik two countries where bottles filled for that country have to carry a notice about colouring agents.
    That leads to the sometimes paradox situation that Diageo Germany adds stickers to Diageo bottlings even when they are natural colour - just to stay on the save side because usually they colour everything!
    If it had been mit Farbstoff they would have used more of it. I would have.
    What is more, it came in two waves here one in Spring and the other in Fall 2016. The second wave did not carry the mit Farbstoff sticker anymore.

    Keep up the good work and I am looking forward to your interpretation of the SWA figures for 2015.


    1. Hey kallaskander, are you sure they didn't add colorant to at least the first batch of the 8yo? It seems weird they'd include a coloring agent sticker when a coloring agent wasn't used.

      As soon as the SWA coughs up the 2015 figures I'm on it. Cheers!