Happy bicentennial, Lagavulin!!
Lagavulin kicked off the 200th anniversary festivities with an edition fully matured in bourbon casks – not unlike the annual 12 year old, but dialed down to 48%. The idea for this expression comes from Alfred Barnard’s seminal piece journaling his visit to all active distilleries in the United Kingdom (which included Ireland at the time). He actually visited 162 distilleries in a three year period (1885-1887), 129 of which were in Scotland.
Barnard came to Islay from Campbeltown, telling us that:
Resuming our journey in pursuit of Distilleries, we left the vast Whisky centre, Campbeltown, at the early hour of six in the morning, bound for the port of Tarbert, to catch the boat to Islay….Upon due arrival at West Tarbert we boarded the steamer bound for Port Ellen, a journey occupying some hours, yet withal rendered pleasant by weather that was all that could be desired. Tired and hungry after our long day we were glad to reach our destination, and immediately on landing proceeded to the “White Hart Inn” where for several days we took up our quarters, and found the accommodation excellent and the attendants obliging.
First he visited Ardbeg, then Lagavulin, describing its location as:
From Ardbeg our route homeward lay through the beautiful village of Lagganmhouillin or Lagavulin, “the Mill in the Valley”, and no prettier or more romantic spot could have been chosen for a distillery.
Back then, the distillery produced about 75,000 gallons of whisky of “high repute” per year from “two old pot stills” that were used:
The make is largely used for blending purposes, but is also sold as a single Whisky; there are only a few of the Scotch Distillers that turn out spirit for use as single Whiskies, and that made that Lagavulin can claim to be one of the most prominent.
Which brings us to this expression. Towards the end of his description, Barnard tells the reader that “we tasted some eight years old before starting, which was exceptionally fine“. This passage is quoted on the box, and served as the inspiration for what is surely only the first of several 200th anniversary special editions.
Lagavulin 8, 200th Anniversary Special Edition (48%)
Appearance: Straw, quite a bit of residue on the glass.
Nose: Fresh peat, very fruity, hints of the new make over a deep layer of honey. The peat is very gentle and less strongly peated than I would have expected. I don’t think that I would have identified this as a Lagavulin in a blind nosing.
Palate: The palate is totally Lagavulin, and really good. The first thing you get on the palate is the wood smoke peat and the honey, with notes of lemon and vanilla.
Linger: Unlike the nose, the peat is strong and lingers for long. It’s dry and slightly sandy. The dry smoke lingers on and on.
It smells older than its age and is really drinkable. I’m not so sure this shouldn’t migrate to the core range. It’s very much a chip off the 12 year old‘s block and were it part of the core range, it would be a permanent resident in my whisky cabinet.