Earlier in the month I had a review of the new(ish) Lagavulin 10, which is supposed to be an exclusive for the travel retail market. (I say “supposed to be” because I purchased it from a regular EU store.) Here now is a Lagavulin from the distillery’s core lineup: the Distillers Edition. In the past I’ve always understood this to be the regular 16 yo with a couple of months of a PX finish applied to it—and I’ve also assumed that the same relationship of age and finish applies to all of Diageo’s malts that have Distillers Editions releases. Certainly, all the other Lagavulin Distillers Editions I’ve seen and reviewed (here, here, and here) seemed to be at least 16 years old. This one, however, as I reported earlier, is not. It’s the 2020 release but is from the 2005 vintage. Is this a one-off due to lack of availability of enough 16 yo stock? Or is this going to be the new normal? I guess we’ll see what happens with the 2021 release later this year. In the meantime I assume this is still spirit that would have gone into the 16 yo, just finished and released a year earlier than usual. If anyone knows different or has confirmation from the distillery on any of these points do write in below. In the meantime let’s see what this is like.
Lagavulin Distillers Edition, 2005-2020 (43%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Big phenolic wallop off the top, accompanied by the usual mossy/vegetal character of the 16 yo. The PX finish announces itself with a thick streak of sweet pipe tobacco that runs through the smoke. Some tart apple as well and maybe because I just said “thick streak” I’m getting some bacon as well. As it sits there’s quite a bit of cracked pepper as well and some dried orange peel. With a few drops of water the tar recedes and the pipe tobacco comes out to the top.
Palate: Comes in with big smoke here too but it’s leafier at first and then more tarry as I swallow. As with the 10 yo the texture is just fine at 43%. The smoke seems to build with every sip and the tar comes out earlier. The texture seems to get more viscous with each sip too. With time the char includes charred oak as well and the acidic notes emerge here as well along with salt. Okay, let’s add a bit of water. Still phenolic but now a bit fruitier (tart-sweet lime).
Finish: Long. Very long. The tar goes on forever and takes over my entire mouth, transitioning at the very end to deeply charred meat. Gets saltier with each sip. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, whatever the age, this is as good as ever. I would like to see it go back to the usual age, if only because movement in the other direction is only likely to end in a NAS release. Let’s see if any information is/does become available on that front.
Rating: 89 points