Bought: World of Whisky, 2nd October 2019
85.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 133 member votes)
At the time of writing this blog the UK is into its third week of lockdown due to the Coronavirus. I bought this ‘Travel Exclusive’ bottle of Lagavulin from Heathrow Airport during better times in October 2019. If you go onto the ‘World Duty Free’ website and search for “whisky” you’ll find 22 bottles. This used to be about 250. Heathrow’s website doesn’t include ‘World Duty Free’ in their list of open stores and the company’s website doesn’t offer an online shop as an alternative. Perhaps that’s something they need to look into to keep themselves afloat. I’m sure there will be a ‘World Duty Free’ business at airports after life returns to normal but it might not have the same owners, or the same stock. This Lagavulin 10yo could be more ‘exclusive’ than first thought.
If there’s one thing that Lagavulin do well it’s whisky. This might seem like a strange thing to say but Highland Park make fridge magnets and they’re rubbish! The Lagavulin 16yo is what got me back into whisky in 2013 so I’ve always had a soft spot for the Islay distillery. I was tempted by the Lagavulin 9yo ‘Game of Thrones’ edition but at over £60 the bottle was clearly overpriced to fleece fans of the TV series (I’ve never watched it). At £40 the Lagavulin 10yo seemed much more sensible and properly priced compared to the 16yo.
According to Whiskybase there’s not much between the Lagavulin 9yo and 10yo with scores of 85.7/100 and 85.6/100 respectively. The 9yo edges it but that’s probably because it’s 46% rather than the 43% of the 10yo. Nevertheless both are excellent scores. Comparing the 10yo with other Islay single malts of the same age we have:
- 86/100 – Ardbeg ‘Ten’
- 85.6/100 – Lagavulin 10yo
- 85.1/100 – Bruichladdich ‘The Laddie Ten’
- 83.2/100 – Laphroaig 10yo
Clearly this new Lagavulin can hold its own against other Islay 10-year-olds. Comments online agree saying “complexity while being highly drinkable”, “successful malt” and “great sippin whisky – tends towards the 16 but more crisp and lively and with quite some power despite the 43%”.
Here are the official tasting notes from Lagavulin:
Nose: mild and lightly drying. An elusive fruity tang introduces clear, fresh and cleansing top notes, with peat smoke and maritime hints of sea breezes and seaweed.
Taste: light and smooth. The taste starts sweet and salty, then heat builds in waves of glorious smoke.
Finish: still smoky, with real depth of taste and a warming spiciness
Here’s Whisky Whims with their thoughts about the Lagavulin 10yo on YouTube (Sept 2019):
Bought: The Whisky Shop, 13th April 2016
86.59/100 – Whiskybase (average from 216 member votes)
89/100 – Ralfy (his YouTube video below)
I don’t know much German but one thing whisky has taught me is that “mit farbstoff” means “with colorant”. Quite why Lagavulin continue to feel the need to add colour is beyond me. It’s not as if they use clear bottles so you can instantly see how light the whisky would be if it were free of E150. You’d think after 200 years of experience they’d trust their casks to do the natural dye job. But Lagavulin is owned by Diageo where ‘consistency’ is more important than ‘craft’.
The Lagavulin 8yo has been balanced off at 48%, which is suspiciously the same as the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (recently available on Amazon for £25 and free postage, half the price of the Lagavulin). You have to wonder if the folk at Lagavulin tried the QC and thought it had a good level of strength and flavour, which it does. With 20,000 bottles of the Lagavulin 8yo, it’s a ‘limited edition’ but only just in my opinion.
86.59/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark and almost 1.5 points ahead of the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Does that really mean anything? Probably not, other than they’re both good and if you already like each distillery’s offerings you’ll enjoy the QC or the 8yo. Comments for the Lagavulin include “great malt and all the respect for it having an age statement”, “a real belter despite its young age” and “it’s clean and crisp, basically the essence of what Lagavulin’s distillate in capable of. Closing my eyes I feel taken back to my 2014 warehouse tour.”
Here’s Ralfy’s review on You Tube (May 2016):
Bought: Tesco, 31st July 2015
88.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 188 member votes)
I was quite surprised to find this bottle of Lagavulin in a local supermarket since it was released in 2011 and this is 2015. Why hadn’t it sold out in 4 years? Perhaps the £70 price tag was the reason. This is a 15yo or 16yo Lagavulin, which is 43% when you can buy the standard Lagavulin 16yo (also 43%) for nearly £20 less. I’m always baffled as to why distilleries do this. Why have a “Distiller’s Edition” that’s practically identical in age and strength to a cheaper, standard release? OK, so it’s matured differently, I understand that but surely the reason to pay more is to get something better rather than slightly different? But to say this would suggest I don’t understand the mind of a collector or serious whisky drinker, and I do. The standard 16yo goes on year after year but this interesting Distiller’s Edition is a snapshot in time from Lagavulin.
88.78/100 is a very high mark on Whiskybase. The standard 16yo scores slightly less with 88.21/100 but that’s from 1667 member votes. Comments for the Distiller’s Edition include “this is a lovely, complex peated malt, tempered by the sweetness of the sherry. A good long-lasting finish”, “great whisky but also ‘drinking’ whisky” and “delicious!”
Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair on Lagavulin but I do feel a Distiller’s Edition should have a clear distinction from a standard release. Even just making it 46% instead of 43% would have ticked that box for me.
Bought: Drink Supermarket, 17th July 2015
89.08/100 – Whiskybase (average from 131 member votes)
Lagavulin distillery are a law unto themselves and I admire them for that. No other distillery I can think of is known for its standard 16yo, costing roughly £50, and then have an annual 12yo clocking in at £80. Admittedly it’s cask strength but does that really justify a 12yo being the same price as the excellent Talisker 18yo?! In a word, yes. This stuff is fantastic and I’ve wanted a bottle ever since I tried the Lagavulin 16yo back in the summer of 2013.
Over 89/100 on Whiskybase for this 12yo is brilliant. One of the scoring systems on Whiskybase is a weighted average of nose, taste, body, finish, price and presentation. Overall the price element of the Lagavulin 12yo gets 86/100. The Ardbeg Auriverdes I blogged about yesterday is the same price as this Lagavulin but Whiskybase members only scored it 77/100 for price and 86/100 overall. Those that buy the Lagavulin, even at £80 for a 12yo, obviously consider it good value for what it is.
If you like the Lagavulin 16yo then it’s time to take the next step and go for the 12. Somehow I think you wont be disappointed.
Here’s ‘Malts of Montreal’ with his review on You Tube (Sept 2016):
Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 2 reviews)
Ileach is one of those mystery Islay malts that has been around for years, which is why I find it surprising that I can’t find it in the Whisky Bible 2014. Perhaps I can’t see it for looking! If anyone finds it, please let me know. Reading around on the internet, the Ileach seems to be a young Lagavulin, although I also read this about the Finlaggan. One or other might not be true. I feel a taste test coming on!
Ralfy, the great YouTube whisky reviewer, hasn’t discussed this 40% Ileach but he’s reviewed the Cask Strength version twice. In 2010 he scores it 82/100 then in 2013 he gives it 88/100. It seems the makers of Ileach are getting better. Interestingly, in Ralfy’s 2013 review he says he bought two bottles from two different locations. Both had a different colour, so not the same batch, but the high standard was the same for both bottles. He mentions the use of caramel but still rates the Cask Strength version very highly. And at £38 for a bottle it’s a tempting price for any Islay fan. A cask strength Lagavulin would set you back over £70.
Here’s Andy of Malt Box with his review on You Tube (August 2016):
Bought – Wine Rack, 30th July 2013
This is the malt that rekindled my interest in whiskies. At the start of July 2013 my brother and I found ourselves enjoying the company of a cluster of 1st cousins as we sat outside a hotel on a warm summer’s evening (in Aberdeen, which is a miracle in itself!). The first beer had slipped down nicely and my cousin Gordon went to the bar for the next round. He came back with more pints and a Lagavulin chaser (for everyone, not just for him). I’d forgotten how gorgeous this whisky is, if I’d ever tasted it in the first place.
After the dust had settled, delight turned to shock when I discovered how much a 70cl bottle of Lagavulin is these days. Didn’t it used to be £20?! Perhaps whisky has risen in line with petrol prices. Thankfully Lagavulin do a quarter bottle which didn’t break the bank. Gawd bless ’em!
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
90/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Lagavulin 16yo – YouTube