Diageo now release Distillers Editions of whiskies from a number of their distilleries (the series began with the six distilleries originally designated as their “Classic Malts”). These involve a secondary (and relatively brief) maturation of the entry-level malt from each distillery in a sherry/wine cask of some kind. I have not tried them all–far from it–but am not a fan of most that I have tried. In particular, the Distillers Editions of Talisker, Clynelish and Caol Ila (some of my favourite distilleries) seem to me to blunt their essential characteristics and the “finish” does not seem to me to always be as harmoniously integrated as it could be with the underlying malt. The only one that I like a lot, and have bought more than one iteration of, is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition, which is finished in casks that previously housed sticky Pedro Ximinez sherry. It’s fairly pricey in the US and so it’s not one that I drink down very fast or replace immediately when done. But as I have a new bottle freshly arrived, I am raiding my large reference sample from my previous bottle of the 1993-2009 edition.
Lagavulin Distillers Edition, 1993-2009 (43%; finished in PX casks; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle
Nose: Dark raisins at first but there’s the familiar Islay iodine right behind it. A nice cereally note as well and increasing brine and charred rope. Not a huge amount of smoke, per se (though my friend Dev might disagree). Gets sweeter and then increasingly medicinal/carbolic and salty/coastal; there’s dry smoke now too and something leathery. After even more time the dark raisiny notes return to the fore.
Palate: Leads with dry, leafy smoke. The raisiny sweetness is present but this is very far from being a heavily sherried malt. The sweetness is like a container from which the smoke and quite a lot of salt spill out and take over. Some citrus after a but and some hints of bitter, tarry notes too. Gets smokier and smokier as it goes.
Finish: Medium. Nothing very new–mostly the salt and smoke fading out slowly.
Comments: This is far closer to the standard issue 16 yo than any of the other D.Es I’ve tried are to their core malts. And blind, there is no way I would have guessed this was finished in PX casks. Lovely stuff, and I hope my new bottle of the 1996-2012 release is as good.
Rating: 88 points.