At the risk of becoming a relevant reviewer, here is another whisky released this autumn and reasonably widely available across the US: the 2017 edition of the Lagavulin 12 CS. The Lagavulin 12 CS is a fixture on Diageo’s annual special releases roster and is, along with the Caol Ila Unpeated, the most affordable of those whiskies and, by itself, the most dependable of them. I’ve previously reviewed the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions and liked them all very much. The Lagavulin 16 is always excellent and so is the Lagavulin 12 CS. Sadly, it’s not easy to find in the $80-85 range any more and so when I saw a bottle as I was picking up the Highland Park “Full Volume”, I couldn’t resist buying it as well. I am not sure why I ended up opening it right away, well before the bottles of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 releases that are also languishing on the shelf; but maybe the people who give me grief for not being a relevant reviewer will get off my back now.
Lagavulin 12 CS, 2017 Release (56.5%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Lemon, cereals and a big, carbolic/phenolic wave that expands as it goes. Some sweet ham below all of that along with salt crystals. A touch farmier as it sits and then a slightly rooty/bitter quality that grounds it all. Less aggressively smoky with water, with wet wool and brine in the lead.
Palate: Peat and smoke lead the way here. First, earthy and farmy notes and then a big surge of dry, sooty smoke and herbal notes that bring more than a touch of mezcal with them. Gets smokier with every sip and also a bit sweeter and more than a little inky. Water integrates it all wonderfully and brings out the pepper much earlier.
Finish: Long. Smoke, smoke, smoke. Some pepper too. Saltier with water and there’s some fish oil too now.
Comments: You know, there’s not much to say about the Lagavulin 12 CS releases: they’re never very complex, they operate in a fairly narrow band of variations from year to year, and they’re always very, very good. If you have $100 or so that you are willing to spend on a good, peaty whisky, this would not be a waste of your money.
Rating: 90 points.