Thanks to some truly cunning marketing campaigns featuring Nick Offerman in hour-long, whisky-sipping brood-a-thons, Lagavulin has gained the reputation of being the manliest Scotch money can buy. Which is odd, given Lagavulin’s use of sherry casks… and sherry’s strong association with tipsy grandmothers and teenage girls raiding the liquor cabinet. While giggling.
Lagavulin 16 is somewhat of a black sheep when it comes to the entry level bottles of Islay distilleries. It’s significantly older than the average Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Caol Ila. It’s more expensive – there’s no consistent Lagavulin release cheaper this, rendering the entire distillery out of budget for many. And it matures partly in sherry as standard, making it one of the rare times you get an age-stated, sherried peat monster.
It was with some suprise that I realized I hadn’t reviewed Laggy 16, and immediately went about the long and arduous process of drinking a double pour or two:
Heaven. Truly, an expert blending of sweet and peat – the sherry and smoke sharing the stage effortlessly. The peat is woody and fairly inoffensive despite its severe reputation, and the sherry is a light touch rather than a sugar high. A faint liquorice. Glazed oranges. Some cut grass, a whiff of leather and a little paprika. Brilliant. It’s begging to be bottled at 46% or above, but this is me nitpicking big time – it’s reassuringly rich and full at its standard strength.
There is so much to appreciate here. All bound up in a near-impenetrable arrival, sweet and smoky. Wood smoke, damp moss, dry sherry, raisins, cream, nutmeg and buttery biscuits. Fistfuls of grass, oak and even a little rose water.
It’s on the taste that I really wish we had a little more oomph crammed into the bottle – there’s a slight diluted feel that rears its ugly head every now and again. Even a few stray percent would do wonders to take the watery edge off and help transmit the liquid directly into my frontal whisky-cortex.
The actual finish is short and sweet, but that peaty stank will be sitting on your kisser for the forseeable future. Here’s hoping you have an agreeable relationship with your significant other, because the stench that will be seeping from your pores is likely to keep them awake until the early hours (assuming you haven’t already been relegated to the couch).
Water takes a certain heat off the tongue but as you might expect dissolves an already borderline whisky into a remarkably unpleasant puddle. Drink it neat, or at very least go out with a bang and mix it with Mountain Dew to enrage the malt farts.
Lagavulin 16 is a rockin’ whisky. A mature, expertly blended, tightly controlled Islay dram that scoffs at those one-trick peat-ponies. We’re looking at you, Laphroaig. While not quite at Ardbeg Oogy levels of enjoyment (the most obvious competitor), it’s a truly exceptional spirit that should be stowed within easy reach at all times. An absolute must try for any somewhat-experienced whisky dabbler, and you get the added bonus of receiving serious whisky-cred when you whip one of these out at a dinner party.