Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition (2011)
It’s hard not to walk into a Lagavulin tasting without having preconceptions and high expectations. The spirit itself is just that good and that well-defined.
So, what happens when you take that lovely base spirit and flash-fry finish it in some sort of wine cask? Well…you end up with a damn good dram that struts and swaggers with a curious sort of crossdresser confidence. They call this ‘Double Matured’. A fancy term for ‘finishing’. Whatever. Call it what you like, in this case it works just fine.
This Lag is part of Diageo’s Distiller’s Edition range of their Classic Malts. Having said all that I just said…I admit to still preferring the standard Lagavulin 16 (or older!!) to this charming eccentricity.
Nose: Rubber. Barn-ish (iodine-rich urine and cowshit). Ash and asphalt. Sea spray and wet rock. Faint banana. Quite sweet on the nose. Peat and smoke? Yes, of course.
Palate: Smoke meets peat meets winegums. A little grape-y. Bandaid dryness. Camphor/menthol rub.
Thoughts: Neat and definitely Lag-ish, but ultimately a little too sweetened by the wine finish for my liking. Still enjoyable. (And yes…I realize your first question will be ‘how can it smell like urine and cowshit and be a good dram?’ You’re right to ask, o ye of little faith, but trust in me and I shall lead ye straight.)
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
Although the 12 and 16 are great from the first pour, the DE needs some oxidation time to settle. In fact, all the finished whiskies seem to improve a lot with time. Still, I consider the DE about an 88, compared to 90 for the 16 and 92 for the 12. No weak sisters in the Laga family!
I picked up the Lag DE a little while ago, Robert, along with the Caol Ila DE, and I’m a little disappointed to read that the Lag, although very good and a very different whisky, isn’t quite up to the 12 and 16. I’ve wanted to try the Lag and Caol Ila DEs ever since trying the Talisker DE 1998-2009 in the mini set (which I give an 89). A great whisky and a truly great finish and, having recently sampled the 2000-2011 Talisker DE, I’m happy to report that it could well be even better. I do agree with the point about settling/oxidation time: with the Talisker, while an excellent sherry finish, it was initially difficult to recognize the base malt at all.
Oh, the DE is still quite good! I just consider the 12 great and the 16 very, very good. There is no bad Lagavulin. Each has a significantly different taste profile but with the same high quality base spirit.
One thing of possible interest is that JW Double Black reminds me of Laga DE. Hmmm! Did Diageo put a dollop in the blend? That would explain why I like it better than Black. As did Serge, who also loves Lagavulin.
I tried a 17 year old cask sample of Lagavulin from a PX cask when at the distillery this past September. Much the same phenomena. Give ‘er time. …And yes…the 12 and 16 are both better drams (as are the 21 and 30!).
Came across a lone bottle of the 2009 limited 12 y.o. yesterday on a dusty shelf in an out-of-the-way shop here in Calgary. Needless to say…she came home with me.
I haven’t enjoyed the ’12 DE as much as the ’11, even with time. Even worse is that the ’12 12 YO isn’t as good as the ’11! Gasp! Maybe sitting for a few months will help, even though the ’11 was excellent from the start.
While in Heathrow airport I picked up a litre of the minty green label 2013 DE. It sat next to the another DE I enjoy very much (’12 Caol Ila DE) so I went for it. The Lag is about 50% more in price but if I remember correctly the CI is 11yo and the Lag is 15. Maybe I’m a little ticked over quality vs price with the Lag but I’m only slightly enamored with it – it’s very “pretty”, smooth, and easy going. Delicious like you want to pound it but not compelling so little to contemplate. Don’t get me wrong, I like it but it’s on par with the Caol Ila if not less interesting. Sorry, I need psychiatric help to remove the bias of cost – I’ll work on that as I down this bottle – luckily I get an extra 1/4L to solve this issue.
Those newer bottles are really sassy looking. Great packaging. Haven’t tried the stuff inside yet though.
Bought a 2013 12 YO recently. Better than the 2012 for sure, but not quite the 2010 and 2011. Those were immensely good bottlings. Still really enjoying it, though (maybe a 90). These have gotten almost impossible to find locally.