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Monday, May 11, 2020

Lagavulin 12 year old Cask Strength (2016 release)

Trigger warning: Some of the following sentences may be interpreted as being complimentary towards Diageo.

Of the three famous Kildalton distilleries, Diageo's Lagavulin seems to be the only one that's serious about maintaining product quality. The other two focus instead on quantity. Beam Suntory's Laphroaig has taken one of Earth's best distillates and buried it under countless cask types and combinations thereof, creating more and more and more products. LVMH's Ardbeg has fully embraced the strange burden of creating a new limited edition whisky every year with a dumb story and a dumber name while not actually matching the muscle and depth of their standard range.

Lagavulin does have a special release or three each year but they're always a simple combo of bourbon and/or sherry casks. Like Laphroaig, Lagavulin releases an annual full-powered bourbon cask age stated release. And though the Lagavulin CS is 40-50% pricier than the Laphroaig, I've found it to be much more consistent. And better. With all this in mind, I've chosen to review four Lagavulins this week, leading up to Mathilda's 6th birthday on Friday, starting with one of the 12-year-old cask strength editions.

Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Region: Islay
Maturation: refill American oak casks
Age: minimum 12 years
Release date: 2016
Outturn: ??,???
Alcohol by Volume: 57.7%
Chill-filtration? Probably not
Caramel coloring? Probably not
(from a bottle split)

Kind of a baked peat in the nose, at first, but then it switches to a seaweed character that moves to the fore. Then raw cocoa, rosemary, parmesan and smoked paprika. After 30+ minutes the cigarettes show up, followed by soil, brown sugar and orange peel. Bunches of lemons and buckets of minerals in the palate. There's also yuzu, grapefruit, tart kiwi, salt and very heavy kiln smoke. That same kiln note leads the lengthy finish and is joined by a little bit of savoriness, grapefruits and pineapple.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes much fruitier. Apples, pineapples and green grapes. Some flower blossoms. The peat goes to the ocean. Like the nose, the palate gets cuddlier. It's sweeter with papaya and pineapple notes, which is in turn balanced by a moderate bitter smoke. The finish also keeps the sweetness, tartness, bitterness and smoke in tune.

Lagavulin is one of the rare distilleries whose official bottlings top anything offered by the indies. None of the "undisclosed Islays" I've tried have come anywhere near the quality of the Lagavulin 12yo CS batches. And yes, the 2016 batch is another winner. I was hesitant to move it into 90-point range, but its mix of fruit and salt and smoke is outstanding. Again. Lagavulin starts the week strong.

Availability - This edition is probably sold out
Pricing - more recent batches are $100-$170, depending on the country or state
Rating - 90