This will be a short review, largely because I’m still mentally on Christmas break. You may have read my review of the Game of Thrones edition of Mortlach recently, and I reach the same conclusion here: If you can find a closeout deal from any retailer that still has it, it’s worth grabbing some. In other words, it wasn’t worth $75, but sure as hell is worth $25.
This bottling is simply a 9 year-old expression of Lagavulin, which sounds young until you remember that peated single malt is usually quite good at younger ages, and between Octomore, Talisker 8 year, and, well, Lagavulin 8 year, no longer seems weird. The “House Lannister” bottling comes from only first-fill ex-bourbon casks (no sherry) and clocks in at 46% ABV.
Nose: Raw, fungal, cidery peat. Astringent (make that cider vinegar), and only mildly smoky (think wet peat moss instead of peat fire). Aside from the peat, it’s a little shy and requires a short rest in the glass. Now I get raspberries (might be a first, that one!), sweet cream, shortbread cookie, toffee, and molasses (or treacle, if you’re British).
Palate: Silky body. Charcoal-flecked peat up front, now with wisps of smoke. These overtake most of the subtler notes. The tongue burn is minimal.
Finish: Long (duh). The peat and smoke persist, joined now by marzipan, raspberry taffy, and charcoal. There is no bitterness – amazing. Fades sedately, but without any new notes.
With Water: Several drops of water bring out more sooty fungal notes on the aroma and increase the smoke. Palate seems thinner, and a little more feinty (vodka-esque). It does add a curious minty/tobacco note on the finish, but I would skip water here. It just doesn’t need it and I’m not a fan of those extra sooty notes.
Overall: A very nice little Lagavulin. Anyone harboring hopes that this might be a way to buy the 16 year at a crazy discount will be disappointed, but in its own right this is a tasty peated dram with its own individuality. The astringent/tart notes are indicative of youth but provide a very nice contrast to the not-over-the-top peat, and bring interesting tart fruit notes to what is usually a very somber party. I would happily drink this when in a mood for peat and not miss the more-mature oaky polish of the 16 year. Let me put it another way: This is far better than any peated scotch (malt or blend) that you can buy for $25. I would have been happy to drink this at $40. If you can still find it on sale and you like peated malt, get some for the bunker. I bought three.