Lagavulin distillery nestles on the south coast of the Scottish Island of Islay and has done so since 1816. Owned by Diageo it produces 2,250,000 liters of spirit per year. It is arguably one of the strongest flavoured and most recognisable whiskies in production today.
Its also home to one of my favourites. The standard 16 yo expression is always in the running for my ‘Desert Island Dram’, perhaps second only to the Pedro Ximenez finished Distillers Editions.
This 8 year old expression is a special edition release to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the distillery. Whisky chronicler Alfred Barnard on his visit to the distillery in the 1880s declared an 8 year old Lagavulin that he tried to be ‘exceptionally fine’.
This leads us to this special release. With thoughts of the 16 year old firmly in my mind I approached this with a mixture of intrigue, trepidation and excitement.
Lagavulin 8, OB, Diageo, 48% abv (self purchase)
The nose is light and crisp and signature Lagavulin. Sweet and smoky but doesn’t feel as dark or as deep as the 16. The coastal and citrus elements are quite pronounced adding to the clean and crisp feeling perhaps some red apple notes are here, overlaid by the soft and sooty feeling.
The palate is thicker and oilier than I expected. The lighter style of nose does not hint at this at all. It is a little ashier than I assumed it would be. The thick smoke and sweet peat lead to a good meatiness. It’s a dry palate that leads to increased smoke over time and feels nice and punchy but at no point is overpowered by the 48% abv. Definitely drier and ashier than the 16. There is a fruity element here but more citrus based, grapefruit and crisp apples, perhaps even some blood orange zest.
The finish is long, lingering and is as smoky as you would expect. More coastal elements reappear here after going missing in the palate. I’m trying not to used the clichéd ‘lingering beach bonfire’ tasting note here but it sums it up rather nicely.
Perhaps I am being unfair in making so many comparisons to the 16, but that’s exactly what people will do. With such an iconic whisky it can only be expected. Yes it is younger but it has had sufficient time in the cask to take on the distillery character and, most importantly, enough to make it an interesting experience especially for drinkers, like me, who are big fans of this distillery.