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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lagavulin Distillery Profile


Ah, Lagavulin. It's marketing activities are surprisingly quiet, despite being owned by Diageo, and even their packaging and presentation is quite subdued and understated. They don't have dozens of different expressions, they don't experiment with unusual cask maturation, and they don't have a particularly strong presence on-line. Ron Swanson is doing his best to change this though!

Despite all this, Lagavulin produces some extraordinary whisky. Their standard expression, the 16yo, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest value-for-money / bang-for-buck single malts available, and is increasing in popularity and reputation. Shop around though if you're looking to buy, some larger stores have jacked up prices over the last year or so, it can still be found for around $90 AUD. Despite being bottled at 43%, and likely using some chill-filtration and added colouring, it's balance, complexity and smoothness are fantastic. It is, in fact, the single malt that got this writer into whisky. I had dabbled with Glenfiddich's, Glenlivet's and Talisker's prior to this, but Lagavulin 16yo was the siren which lured me in to the depths.

They also regularly release a 12yo cask strength bottling (the 'youngest' whisky they produce), and a distiller's edition bottling with an extra maturation/finishing in PX sherry casks. There is significant variation in these releases though, so try before you buy if possible. 

There are also a few older (25+ years) bottlings, which of course are hugely expensive, and like most Islay distilleries they release a 'Feis Ile' (Islay festival) special bottling each year. I have tasted their 2013 Feis Ile bottling, and it was absolutely mind blowing. Near impossible to find now, without paying collector's prices, but it was definitely one of my all-time favourites. 

Distillery Location: Lagavulin bay, near Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland.

Owner: Diageo

Producing since: 1816

General Whisky Style: Smoky, peaty and fruity, balanced and complex.

My only wish with Lagavulin, like many other distilleries, is that they would release a bottling which is not chill filtered, and without added colouring, and then clearly state that on the label. I don't believe they excessively chill filter their whisky at the moment, but it would be nice to know for certain. Come on Diageo, let's do it!