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Monday, July 27, 2020

Lagavulin 12 year old Cask Strength (2019 release)

Whether or not it has been noticeable, there have been a lot more Lagavulin OB reviews on Diving for Pearls recently. I've come to find Lagavulin's single malt to be one of the most reliable on the planet. As opposed to what they've done with (or to) Talisker, Diageo hasn't with Laga's distillate and has avoided extensive carpentry for its maturation vessels. Yes, they've released 8, 9, 10 and 11 year old versions over the past four years, but the casks did not tilt toward new oak, wee barrels or STDs STRs, and the results have been good-to-great. Still, the 16yo and the 12yo CS rule the roost.

I'm going to review the 2019 edition of the 12 year old CS today, and the 2019 Distillers Edition on Wednesday. They were sampled side-by-side for the purpose of these reviews.

Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Region: Islay
Maturation: American Hogsheads
Age: minimum 12 years
Release date: 2019
Outturn: 60,762 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.5%
Chill-filtration? Probably not
Caramel coloring? Probably not
(from a purchased sample)

Though oak usually registers minimally in these release, this nose reads rawer than expected, close to new make. It's a glass of sooty ocean water, scorched veg, brothy sencha, almond extract and burnt newspapers (relevant?).

The palate is simple but gorgeous, heavily peaty, salty and bitter. But it also has a sweet nuttiness that keeps it from being one-dimensional. Different smoke flavors swirl through over time: wood, barbecue, veg, etc. It also gains a slight sugar-crystal-topped sugar cookie note in the background.

Salt, smoke and hint of sugar make up most of the finish. It becomes more earthy and bitter with time, then picks up an almond note as well.

A whisky whose palate tops its nose rarely surfaces around here, certainly less than once a month. This edition's nose reminded me of all the 6-8 year old "Islay" indie bottlings I've tried, which isn't really an insult, except the official 12 always top those indies, in my opinion. Thankfully the palate was excellent as ever, not very complex but a minimalist gem. The finish fell short of greatness, so that makes this whisky's grade goofier than usual. But fans of the annual Lagavulin 12 year old will enjoy this one's Islay power as always.

Availability - Europe. It's possible this version didn't make it to the US
Pricing - $100-$150 depending on the country
Rating - 87

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