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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Single Malt Report: Lagavulin 1998 Distillers Edition (2014)

Ah the Distillers Edition, without an apostrophe.  So it's not the Distiller's Edition or the Distillers' Edition, but the Distillers Edition.  Is that The Queen's Punctuation?  Why should we want to take possession of this whisky if the distillers don't?  Have I made this joke before?  Yes, yes I have.

That's really all there is for the introduction today.  Okay, well, just a little more perhaps.  This is the second of the three regular/annual Lagavulin releases for 2014 that I'm reviewing this week (two years after their release).  The Lagavulin Distillers Edition (LDE) takes the 16 year old's base and gives it an additional short (6 month?) finish in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.  Peat + sugary sherry.  Though that combo often doesn't work, the some folks think the LDEs always do.

My sample comes from this bottle which was part of
the OCSC July 2015 event

Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Maturation & Age: approximately 16 years in ex-bourbon casks, then a short period of time in former Pedro Ximenez sherry casks
Chill-filtration? Yes
Caramel coloring? Likely so
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Its color is DiageoDoublePlusGold™.

The nose is a mix of the pretty and gritty.  The former is represented by loads of baked dried fruits, grape jam, fresh blueberries and plums, and floral honey.  The latter fills in the edges with rocks, sand, seaweed, and rubber bands.

The palate has a Caol-Ila-level of peat action which runs straight through the center of chocolate covered jelly rings.  There are also gumdrops, mint extract, and cinnamon-sugar cookies.  At first it feels very light on alcohol content, but it does develop some heat and a sharper mineral bite after some time in the glass.  It also picks up something I can only describe as peated watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

It finishes with berry fruit leather, mint candy, wood spice, seaweed, peat smoke residue, and a rumbling chili pepper heat.

WITH WATER (~30%abv)
The nose becomes more chocolatey, pruney, and floral.  New metal surface and cap gun caps rest in the back.  A sandy/ocean note sits in the midground.

Again the peat reads louder in the palate, where it's now ashy.  Smaller notes of mint, chili peppers, cinnamon candy, anise, and fertilizer rotate throughout.

The finish still has some weight as if the abv was higher than 30.  Things get pretty sweet here with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Maybe some black pepper.  The peat is nearly absent.

Curious stuff going on in this one.  The nose shows very little peat, mostly running on PX sticky fruitiness, but the palate frees the peat and drops the fruit.  Also, this is the rare whisky where I've found the palate to be more complex than the nose.  The whole thing takes to water pretty well, but there it also plays hide and seek with the spirit character.  Overall nothing really wows here, but neither does it demonstrate any weaknesses.

A lot of folks really like the Lagavulin Distillers Editions.  It's not that I don't like them, but I've never found any reason to be too enthusiastic about the quality.  The problems are exacerbated by the fact that I can get the regular 16yo (which I always enjoy more) for $57 at my local Costco, meanwhile the local specialty retailers (with only a couple exceptions) are selling the LDE for $120+.  But even if I were to ignore pricing, I'd take the 16 over the LDE any day.  And if I were to pay $100+, that money would go to the other annual Limited Edition Lagavulin, which I'll review tomorrow.

Availability - Many specialty liquor retailers
Pricing - $75-$100 on the East Coast, $100-$140 on the West Coast
Rating - 84