Lagavulin – 16
Here’s a malt that probably needs no introduction, and one that – since it was the first Islay whisky I ever tried – has a bit of sentimental baggage for me. I’ll try to be stalwart and impartial in my notes though!
Nose: It’s been a while since I’ve tried the 16 (other than a few late-night drams out-and-about when I – horror! – wasn’t taking notes) but you get that great combination of Malaga raisins with rubber boots and a tiny drop of iodine and everything comes flooding back. There are kippers somewhere, and some walnuts and marzipan. A few drops of orange juice, some pipe tobacco, brine, toffee. There’s a lighter, almost floral, aniseed thing going on which is new.
Taste: Salty and orangey. Some bitter herbal touches (Fisherman’s Friends?) and smoked bacon. There’s some chocolate and slight menthol.
Finish: Salty and smoky – tea made over a peat fire on a beach. A little dark chocolate, and some fleeting sweet fruit and vanilla. Cough candy, maybe. Long and balanced.
Familiarity can, as we’re often told, breed contempt, but I think we should be delighted with the ubiquity of this whisky. Even dodgy pubs and indifferent restaurants tend to have a bottle, and it’s leagues ahead of its likely companions on the most insalubrious of drinks shelves.
We’re also frequently told that Lagavulin is “not as good as it used to be” and while, of course, everything has been going downhill since we came down from the trees I can’t say I see it. This bottle seems a little sweeter and fresher than the last one I had a few years back (almost like a bit of the 12-year-old Special Release has seeped in…) but memory is fallible. I’m not doing an A/B comparison, and neither should you – just enjoy this thoroughbred whisky still going strong after all these years.