In 2016, the whisky world watched Lagavulin like a hawk, anticipating what expressions would be released for their 200th anniversary. When they announced the 8 year old as their world wide limited edition release, quite a few of us had mixed feelings. Their story behind the release was to recreate an 8 year old whisky that Alfred Barnard had tried at Lagavulin in the 1880’s, of which he described as “exceptionally fine”.
It’s a nice story tying in the famous whisky historian and Lagavulin but beyond that I can’t see much relevance. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. I don’t see how the 1880’s has any special meaning with respect to the 200th anniversary and it seems unlikely that they would be able to recreate that same whisky. So what other explanations can we come up with for this seemingly lackluster big anniversary release?
Well business and marketing-wise it’s quite a shrewd decison, especially in the context of current whisky culture. With quite a few big distillery anniversaries just prior to this, we’ve seen a mix of special releases that were typically lacking an age statement and/or somewhat over priced (ie Ardbeg Perpetuum, Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015, Laphroaig 21, Laphroaig 32). By using younger whiskies for this anniversary bottling, Lagavulin were presumably able to make a much larger batch for the release. This means that most people who wanted it could get it without resorting to inflated auction prices and the retail price was kept at a reasonable number. By stating that it is indeed a young whisky, they were able to show that despite the recent move toward NAS expressions, they were still listening to the whisky people about the disappearing age statement.
So while I did have a moment of disappointment upon news of the release, I believe it was a smart move on Diageo’s part. Don’t get me started on the peculiarities of the 200th anniversary Feis Ile release! Anyway as you’ll soon read, my initial reaction to the release was a classic example of age prejudice and I should strive to be more open minded.
Age: 8 Years Old
Cask: Mostly Ex-Bourbon (no definite source yet)
Price: £52.95 at the Master of Malt
Sweet sweet malt. Oat porridge with honey and fruit jam swirls. Smokiness of Arbroath smokies with that meaty burned grease character. Lavender soap. Potpourri. The sweet note from silage. Biscuit sweetness like Graham crackers and ginger bread. It feels like breakfast at the cottage of a Scottish farm.
Spicy and tangy right off the bat followed by caramel honey sweetness and herbal peat smokiness. Oatmeal sweetness with a real satisfying malt or cereal sweetness. Maple syrup. Hint of citrus toward the end like cumquats. Slight licorice twist flavours.
Tangy sweet with a sticky prickly pineapple glaze character. With the smokiness of yakitori with delicious meat fat dripping onto hot coal. Herbal like ginseng tea.
Quite a satisfying dram. Feels like that 3 course meal gum from Willy Wonka’s. It definitely evokes a lot of memories of eating a Scottish breakfast in a farm cottage during lambing season as well as a late night trip to izakaya yakitori in New York. There’s a lot going on here in the nose and the finish with the body being a bit more simplistic but hearty. Really wish this wasn’t a limited edition bottling. Definitely recommend any whisky drinker to try this. Absolutely love the malty notes.
Image at top sourced from: