I’m hoping to get to this year’s Laphroaig Cairdeas release by the end of the month but in the meantime here is another Feis Ile release from Islay’s south shore. This is not this year’s Lagavulin release though; it is the one they put out in 2015. At 24 years old it’s one of the older releases at recent Feis Iles. It’s also somewhat complicatedly made, being triple matured: first in ex-bourbon casks, then in PX sherry casks and then finally in oak puncheons (presumably either not sherry or refilled so many times as to not matter). The PX sherry maturation was apparently the briefest of the three. This was said to have been selected by the excellent Pinkie McArthur but I’m not sure exactly what that means in this case as there were 3500 bottles released—probably 6-8 puncheons worth at 59.9%. Were there in fact far more of these triple-matured puncheons, a few of which Pinkie selected to be vatted for Feis Ile 2015? That would appear to be the explanation. That makes you wonder what is happening/happened with the rest. Well, I cannot answer that question but I can tell you what I think of this bottle which I recently opened several years after acquiring it at auction for a king’s ransom (well, maybe not a very important king).
Lagavulin 24, 1991, Feis Ile 2015 (59.9%; triple matured; from my own bottle)
Nose: Just beautiful…a mix of coastal notes (kelp, oysters), mild phenols (Dettol), lemon and a sweeter cereal note plus some mossy, slightly herbal accents. On the second sniff there’s some ham brine and some sweeter, charred pork. Deeply expressive and austere at the same time, if that’s possible [it’s not]. As it sits the nose gets more briny and a little farmy/organic—reminding me of contemporary bourbon cask Springbank in some ways. With more time the full southern Islay peat profile is on display as some ink now joins the party as well. With a few drops of water some of the lemon turns to citronella and mothballs and the rest turns into home-made lemon pickle with minimal spices (coriander seed, mustard seed).
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose with some pencil lead added in. Nice texture and very drinkable at full strength. The sherry is very much in the background—to the extent it’s palpable at all. On the second sip the lemon turns preserved and expands and the peat is a little tarrier. Goes on in this excellent vein for a while. Okay, let’s add water. Oh yes, sweeter, peatier, lemonier and all perfectly integrated now. The texture gets really oily too.
Finish: Long. The phenolic notes expand and become more mineral around the edges. No sign of oak. More lemon and less tar with water.
Comments: Take your best Lagavulin 12 CS add a drop or two of a good batch of the 16 and turn it up to 11. This is gorgeous stuff—I know there’s sherry in there but it tastes like the quintessence of ex-bourbon Lagavulin. The past is gone but there is still great whisky being made and released in Scotland.
Rating: 92 points.