Nose: Awesome. Demerara, herring, molasses. Like kippers dug out of a waterlogged peat bog and soaked in dark golden syrup. Just incredibly rich and continually evolving. I couldn't put it down for fear of missing something, but it's impossible to keep up. Honeycomb, citrus, fudge, toffee, vanilla, cigar leaf, dusty oak, candied orange peel, ginger, toast, freshly cut peat, dried turf, woodsmoke, acacia - there's too much going on in here. An embarrassment of riches. Ranks with the Oddbins Bowmore 1964 Oloroso as the most utterly flawless nose these nostrils have yet encountered. May even have edged it.
Palate: Not as sweet as the nose, maybe not quite as rich. But still immense, still better than anything I've had for a very very long time. Perhaps nothing could live up to a nose as perfect as that, but this comes bloody close and almost succeeds. Circuits are fusing in my head by now, and writing notes seems almost futile, but I'll try:
Brine, sea-spray, coal-dust. Quite dry, yet honeyed. A brief fish course of freshly-smoked kippers, then a spicy, peppery rush. Then the rest of the flavours from the nose start swirling around, dancing forward, retreating, merging together. Yet it never loses its way - in fact it's almost rhythmic (careful, Tim!). Everything seems to be in its proper place, patiently waiting for your attention. Then it's off again. Peat here - syrup over there. The most perfectly rounded maltiness. Integration is perfect, the concentration almost unparallelled. The texture is stunning. A whisky one swallows with severe regret.
Finish: Again, immense. Takes an eon to slowly fade out, and it's still too soon. Words struggle to do justice to this (well my words do, anyway).
Comment: A salutary experience for the soul as well as the tastebuds. Apologies if these notes seem a little OTT, but may I never get so jaded and cynical that I can't allow myself to be occasionally blown away by something of this quality.
The 16yo has long been to Lagavulin what the 911 was to Porsche but we’re more than happy to see more variants coming out, especially since those are more Turbos than Boxters in our opinion... Okay, enough crappy analogies, let’s try this brand new 21yo, due for later this autumn (we already had a taste of a pre-vatting at the Islay Festival).
It’s an important bottling, as it comes from Spanish sherry European oak casks only – not American oak like often with sherry. Besides, we’ve been told that there won’t be any other ‘full sherry’ versions in the future.
Colour: full amber.
Nose: what is striking are the obvious common roots between the old 12yo and this new 21yo. This one is more ‘direct’ at first nosing, though. Sweeter, creamier, immediately on peat plus sherry plus the assembling of both (if you see what I mean)... Simple? Indeed, but just for a few seconds, as it then starts to shoot aromatic arrows one after the other. Menthol, hazelnut oil, oxtail, prunes, orange marmalade, smoked ham, curry, mustard (hints), walnut liqueur. Slight hints of phosphorus (although not like a ‘simple’ bunch of matchsticks). And it goes on, getting wilder now... Game (just like in the old 12yo), eucalyptus (I know brands are not cool but I’d dare to say ‘Vicks’)... And then strawberry jam, sea water... Please take your time when you’ll try this one, the development is ‘very gradual’ but it’s really worth it. A fireworks show.
Mouth: here’s the punch that the 12yo was lacking, but also a slight ‘brutality’ at the attack. A true peaty grip in fact and an extreme ‘ampleur’. Quite some pepper, walnuts, crystallised ginger, strong liquorice, tar, mint and eucalyptus sweets again (very bold!), bitter oranges... And a powerful smokiness. The saltiness grows bolder as well... No sulphur that I can get... Wood ashes, herb liqueurs (green Chartreuse – are you listening, O.?), Havana tobacco (like when you chew your cigar). Also hints of ripe gooseberries and dried longans. And sticky toffee pudding, of course. Finish: very long, concentrated, ample, salty and liquoricy – amusing how this one makes you thirsty. We also tried it with water, it got more on mint and eucalyptus (and oranges) but other than that the general profile stayed the same. Who said this was an important bottling? 95 points.