Thursday, 7 August 2014

Classy Peat: Lagavulin 16

Photo by Konstantin Ponomarenko
It's probably a little bit early in the year to be reviewing the Lagavulin 16, as it's really better suited to winter, but I just couldn't resist cracking open my bottle after holding off on trying it for so long.

Lagavulin is an Islay distillery that is incredibly highly thought of, especially in America where it is the favourite of Nick Offerman (who plays Ron Swanson in Parks & Rec) and various other celebrities. It is one of the Classic Malts Selection owned by Diageo (so you know it will be highly polished) and is located slap bang between Ardbeg and Laphroaig on Islay's south coast. The entry level Lagavulin is a 16yr peated dram, this sets Lagavulin apart from the other distilleries who generally have a younger spirit take the place as their base level whisky.

On the nose there is a whole load of lovely peat and smoke, but this is different from the medicinal seaside Laphroaig 10 and much more in line with Ardbeg Uigeadail. There are noticeable elements of sherry cask on this malt with toffee, sweet spice and caramel.

However, with a little time in glass and the addition of just a little water, the lovely surf and iodine notes start to come through which are mixed with orange, citrus and dried fruits. The nose of the Lagavulin is a wonderful blend of the sweet and savoury, of the cooked sugars with the peats, they make great partners and they match well in this dram. There is depth to be found in these waters and they offer great intrigue.

On the palate the Lagavulin 16 is wonderfully thick and oily, it brings a big spoonful of peat smoke with a faint briny sea water quality. It starts sweet with loads of fruit before the drying sherry character peeks through. There is nice spice of cinnamon mixing with the smoke before a decent finish of pepper and peat. This malt is really nice on the palate, it's really well put together and benefits from just a touch of water. The finish is decent and there is certainly some complexity to be getting on with without you being bombarded with different flavours all vying for attention.

This is a really great whisky, and I feel it shows that its huge reputation is largely deserved. The quality is fantastic, there is a great nose, palate, complexity and length, and I feel happy recommending this to anyone who likes a peated malt, but for me personally it just doesn't get me going as much as a Laphroaig or Ardbeg.

When I go for an Islay whisky I want a bonfire up my nose, to be really confronted with smoke, char, the smell of the ocean, really for pretty extreme whiskies and for me the Laphroaig 10 and Quarter cask as well as Ardbeg 10 and Uigeadail deliver so well on this. I do not want to do the Laga 16 a dis-service as it is really great, it just isn't the best fit for me personally, I just want a little bit more exhibition.

The smoke is muted in this in comparison to the Ardbeg and Laphroaig, but has seen much longer in cask and so the peat does subside a bit. This is a really refined more aged example of Islay that so many will enjoy, but I think I'll try the 12yr when I have a strong feeling I'm simply a fan of the more brash young Islays.

The Lagavulin 16yr can be bought at Waitrose for £48.50 and The Whisky Exchange for £48.95 who are offering £5 off when you buy two whiskies with hundreds to choose from!

As a little bonus here's a short video of Ron Swanson, the ultimate man, from Parks and Rec visiting Lagavulin, it brings a tear to my eye every time. Enjoy!

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