I ended 2016 with a review of a Laphroaig; let’s start 2017 with a review of a Lagavulin. This is the 2013 release of their annual Distillers Edition. It comprises malt distilled in 1997, matured for 16 years and then finished for an unspecified period of time in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks. Until the release of the Lagavulin 8 I would have said that officially released Lagavulins were as close to a guarantee of excellence in the Scotch whisky world as you can hope to find; and the Distillers Edition has always helped keep that average up. It basically drinks like a more heavily sherried version of the regular 16 yo (dependably excellent in its own right) and is one of the best examples of the marriage of heavy peat and sherry that is widely available—perhaps even the best. I reviewed the 2009 edition three years ago and rather liked it. It’s taken as many years for me to get around to opening this bottle and I can tell you right away that I liked it just as much. It is a liter bottle, purchased in Duty Free (back when good deals on very good whisky were actually available in Duty Free), and I’ve much enjoyed the time it’s taken me to drink it down. And despite being bottled at 43% it has stayed remarkably consistent over the life of the bottle—this review is taken from the bottom quarter.
Lagavulin 1997, The Distillers Edition, 2013 Release (43%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet charred wood with pipe tobacco and some barbecued pork. Orange peel in there too along with some toffee and then a slowly building medicinal note. Gets tarrier with each sniff. With more time the orange peel intensifies as well but the whole is really harmoniously integrated. Water releases more of the toffee.
Palate: Ashier smoke on the palate at first and then the meaty thing comes out strong. Smokier still on the second sip and there’s some burnt rope too—not getting any of the citrus here at first. The mouthfeel is just a touch too thin but that’s at least partially on account of how long the bottle has been open. Saltier with time and tarrier. After about 30 minutes the citrus begins to pop up but it’s not as present as on the nose. More integrated with water and sweeter now with more obvious PX influence (it’s still very smoky).
Finish: Long. The smoke just takes over here. Gets earthier as it goes. With time some of that pipe tobacco sweetness from the nose begins to pop back out here too. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is very close to the 2009 release. I haven’t had any of the more recent releases—I hope they’re still this good. A little more depth and fruit on the palate and this would have headed towards 90 points. Interesting how the PX influence registers so much more on the nose than on the palate before water is added.
Rating: 88 points.