Nose: Big and meaty straight off the bat, with raisins, ham and mulching grass. There’s brine around the edges along with sour plums, liquorice, leather and lots of earthy smoke.
Palate: Sweet and briney with dark cocoa, leafy forest touches (like walking through a tunnel of ivy and vines) and dark, rich riverbank mud. As it sits notes of lightly milky coffee and brown miso develop, along with spiced apple. Water brings out dark sweetness with chocolate and old wood, makes the sweet fruit more noticeable and adds in some briney seaweed.
Finish: Long, warming and chocolatey, with sweet earthy smoke.
Comment: Big, dark and rich with more smoke than I’ve ever found in a whisky this old. More restrained than the younger bottlings but very much carrying on their ideas, with more of everything other than youthful exuberance. A great dram.
Appearance: Rich amber with copper lights. Good beading.
Nose: Modestly low key, setting the tone for a maestro’s ‘less is more’ performance. Yet still the aroma could only be that of Lagavulin: rich and complex, an artist’s oils wreathed in scented smoke. The top notes are elusive: is that menthol or beef consommé? Further in, though, there’s honeyed toffee with hints of lime zest, and a cigar-box made of resin-rich sandalwood. With water the aroma is joyously sweet and lightly oily.
Body: Medium. Lightly coating.
Palate: At natural strength, the taste is sensational, rounded and comforting. There’s a nice cooling mouthfeel, while the sweet-smoky start of charcoal and ripe tropical fruits is followed by gathering wood smoke leading to a palate-cleansing, black tea dryness. Along the way waves of honey, pine, treacle tart and roasting chestnuts interact. It’s really delicate with water, which pulls back the curtain of smoke to reveal a sweetly coating, softly warming and gingery character that is honeyed yet still refreshing.
Finish: Initially sweet then drying, a little like a treacle tart made with burnt pastry, but it’s the lingering, all-pervading fragrant smoke that seeps into your very soul.