November 12, 2010
Lagavulin produces a classic 16-year Islay single-malt which is well known for its mellow roundness and liberal use of peat. It can be difficult to find a bottle in retail that hasn’t been marked up dramatically. I once saw a bottle in a Lake Tahoe liquor store priced at $115!
The aroma is unmistakably smokey, with none of the molasses notes of some maltier Scotches. I smell a little pine or cedar, and maybe a suggestion of sea air or brine. The aroma is clearer and more concentrated in the glass without water added, so I suggest smelling this whisky before adding a few drops of water, if that’s your thing.
The mouthfeel is smooth and luxurious, with a noticeably low level of fire on the tongue. The early flavors get straight to the oak, and then to the peat, with a hint of fruit or hazelnut. There are medium notes of peat and some smoke on the tongue which are more pronounced in the finish. The finish is long and straightforward, mostly campfire and a suggestion of cherry or cherrywood. The sugar of the barley is not forward in this bottle, but the balance between peat and malt, and the smoothness with which it comes off, make this a very satisfying dram.
I could not identify a difference between the glass with a few drops of water added and the glass without, except that the straight-up flavor was more cohesive and coated my mouth more fully. I personally do not think this Scotch benefits from the addition of water.
This Lagavulin is a prime example of a smokey Islay malt with some years behind it. The peat is aggressive, but the oak balances it nicely. The age of the malt gives it a roundness and mutes the fire.
This Scotch might pair well with a cigar, a small amount of fatty fish (salmon or mackerel), a well-aged steak, or a creamy dessert. It is probably best enjoyed by itself, however.