Twas the 200th year of Lagavulin Distillery, and the whiskers were all abuzz about the Feis Ile 2016 release but magistrates at Diageo spoke not a peep about what was perhaps the most anticipated Lagavulin release ever. Only hours before they opened up their doors on Saturday (May 21st), the word spread round that the 200th Anniversary Feis Ile bottling would be an 18 year old with 6000 bottles produced and priced at $125. It was, to be frank, a bit of a let down considering last years 24 year old which was only 3 quid more at £128. To make it even more lackluster, the casks used were not particularly novel for them. Refill bourbon hogsheads and bodega sherry butts. Actually pretty much identical to the Lagavulin Jazz Festival 2015 bottling. And since the globally distributed 200th anniversary bottling was an 8 year old, I was hoping for something extra special for the Feis Ile bottling.
However, as they say, the devil is in the details. While the bottle says 18 years old, there is no vintage provided like last yeats Feis Ile bottling which means there are probably older whiskies in here. Couple that with the cask strength ABV of 49.5% and it’s a bit suspicious. That seems a bit low for an 18 year old. The 24 year old from last year was 59.9%. Also the use of ex-bodega casks is actually pretty uncommon these days. Ex-bodega typically refers to casks that were used by sherry bodegas to mature their wines. Bodegas typically do not like the oak influence and so hold on to their casks for a long time. The only reason Scottish distilleries were able to get a hold of sherry casks historically, was because bodegas would use different casks to ship their wines to the UK. These were not bodega casks. These days most sherry casks are seasoned with sherry. This means that they are filled with sherry and left for about a year (more or less) to impart that good old sherry essence. So bodega sherry casks are actually quite rare, especially with the decline of the sherry industry.
So what does this all amount to? Well perhaps Iain McArthur has chosen to do something very bold with this bottling. Perhaps, he chose to put together an expression without regard to age or marketting or novelty, but simply to create a style that was good. Perhaps there are some very old casks in here and some rare casks, and they simply didn’t feel the need to tout it. Seeing as how it’s a Diageo brand and Diageo/SWA seem to have a thing against transparency of what goes into a bottle, it would be somewhat hypocritical of them to then release a bunch of information about the ridiculous casks that were used for this bottling. Instead, by their own rules, they could only put 18 Years Old on that bottle.
We tried the Lagavulin Feis Ile 2016 bottling at Moxie’s “A festivus for the rest of us the fèis strikes back” tasting. Moxie has been running very unique tastings in Edinburgh for about a year now which feature some very fascinating whiskies. Thanks again to Moxie for the awesome lineup!
Distillery: Lagavulin Distillery
Age: 18 Years Old
Cask: Refill American oak hogsheads and European Oak ex-Bodega Sherry Butts
ABV: 49.5% (Cask Strength)
Price: £125 at the distillery during Feis Ile 2016
Number of Bottles: 6000
Overwhelming refreshing sweet flowers and fruit. Like walking in an orchard in full bloom. Slight bacon. Crisp effervescent soda. Coco cola and dr pepper. Light dry peat in the background. Flower nectar like honey suckles. Spicy fruits. Apple tarts.
Saturating sweet baked apples. Apple pie. Rhubarb and berry pie. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Spicy oak and vanilla custard. Light herbal dry peat smoke. Delicate smoke. Berry jam.
Light herbal yet dry smoke. Floral and fruity nectar. Cooling refreshing lime soda.
Really lovely nose. Full of refreshing fruit and really strong floral notes. The peat is light but perfectly balanced with the fruity floral notes. Just really well balanced.What struck me about this dram was how lively the nose was. It felt like stepping into a fairy glen where fairies are in the middle of a tea party. At the tea party they seem to have fairy cakes made with magical fruit that fizzes like soda pop. Everything feels kind of surreal like I am about to wake up from a dream. So that’s what I got from this dram.
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