Lagavulin, “Distillery Only” (2010 Release)

Lagavulin, Distillery Only, 2010
As a fan of the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition—the regular Lagavulin 16, “finished” for a few more months in PX sherry casks—I’d often wondered what it would be like at cask strength. Thanks to this release, which was available at the distillery only, I am able to find out. Sort of. It’s not the same age as the regular Distiller’s Edition (which, as noted, is 16 years and a few months, usually): this was spirit left over from the 1991-2007 Distiller’s Edition that was left to mature for a few more years in refill casks. Or so I’ve gathered from this account from someone who tasted it at the distillery in 2011—other sources are either vaguer or present different accounts (see WhiskyNotes, for example). I’m inclined to believe the person who got the story directly from the distillery manager though. And, no, I didn’t get the bottle at the distillery; a friend who procured a bottle was kind enough to share. 

Lagavulin, “Distillery Only” (52.5%; 2010 release; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Ah, classic Islay peat with gauze bandages, disinfectant and lots of sea air. On the second sniff the softer notes come out (nutty with a hint of cream) followed by citrus; saltier too now. With more time there’s some toffee and the whole gets very nicely integrated. As it sits the peat gets more and more pungent. With water it’s mellower with more of the cream and some milk chocolate.

Palate: All the stuff from the nose but with some dry wood smoke added in. Spicier on the second sip and tarrier. The smoke gets ashier as it goes and it’s sweeter now (raisiny with some dried orange-peel mixed in). Unlike on the nose, water amplifies the smoke, making it drier still and adding a charred note.

Finish: Long. Goes on forever with the smoke building and merging with the sweetness which uncoils below it. With time it gets saltier and more leathery. As on the palate with water.

Comments: Well, this is exactly what I would have guessed the Distiller’s Edition would be at cask strength. Which is to say it’s just lovely. Interestingly the PX influence seems less pronounced at the higher strength than in the regular D.E. Of course, if it’s true that the extra maturation was not in the PX casks that would explain the more subdued sweet sherry quality.

Rating: 91 points.

Thanks to Rich for the sample!

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