Lagavulin Single Cask Extravaganza

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Thanks to /u/distillasian for sharing all of these with me.

So we’re having an amazing night. Drinking samples that were brought back from Islay, and reminding ourselves to make distillasian’s wife many cakes. Or BBQ meat. Or cakes with BBQ meat in them. I’m not going to judge.

For a few of the samples (save the two previous reviews that were bottles from Scotland) we were sharing samples to just try them. And it was fricking amazing, let me tell you.

Then we got to Lagavulin. And turns out we had an ounce each to review. And everyone looked at me, without a pen in my hand, standing there like a naked guy out in the cold. Oblivious. Probably should be doing something.

“Well… you’re going to review these, right? Never get these chances again”

I sat there, figuring out how I’m going to do this.

Much coffee was had. Many moments or breaks. Lots of meditation. Maybe felt myself up a few times.

Let’s do this.

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Lagavulin 2018 Jazz Fest

Price: N/A

Region: Islay

Cask Type: 1st-fill & Refill American & European Oak Puncheon

Abv: 58.5%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/1

Nose: Cashew, caramel pudding, BBQ chips

Nutty. Quite creamy. But even though it’s really strong and all, it takes a long time to pull the individual flavours. Water brings out the smoke. But up to that point?

Really light.

Taste: Grassy, chocolate, anise cookie, plum, caramel

Alright, closer to the Lagavulin that we love, but less of the sherry influence calming that peat. Think more Laphroaig than Lagavulin. More cocoa and spice.

Water starts to tease more of the sherry casks. But it acts kinda like a port finish in a way. All in all it’s acting less like there’s sherry here.

Finish: Cocoa, brine, anise, mint, cookies

More dry, sweet, salty and spice times. It’s all good. A bit less complex than I’d want. Water pulls more of it together, but if I wanted to be pulled in a direction, I’d do it myself and it wouldn’t be to cookies.

Wait…. no, cookies would be involved, just after. I get myself all worked up.

Conclusion: Missing that balance that sherry brings. Overall nice, but too sweet to be really amazing. It’s really cereal developed but the mint and spice don’t really mesh with it. The lack of nose, the direction, all of it screams Laphroaig but without what makes Laphroaig work.

Ignoring the nose, this was nice to sip on and overall easy to drink. It doesn’t taste the strength. The sherry is lost in it or just didn’t have a chance versus the rest.


Lagavulin 6 2012 Single Cask

Price: Still in the cask, go take the tour.

Region: Islay

Cask Type: Ex-bourbon cask

Abv: 61%

Colour: 7.5Y 8/4

Nose: Coal, BBQ sauce, strawberry/floral, vegetal

Earthy smoke. Nice amount of that “we’re cooking outside and it smells awesome before the edibles are on the grill”. Water brings out… strawberry? That’s impressive. Fruit/floral after only 6 years in an ex-bourbon cask is a treat. More vegetal to smack me back down.

Taste: Strawberry, pepper-steak, white chocolate, floral

More strawberry and white chocolate, floral notes. Really, really nice fruit to it. Lots of heat/smoke in a meaty way. This is young, brash, and cool. It could be a hero in a 90s cartoon easily.

You know what takes over though? It’s the chocolate. It’s that big, sweet, oh god I want more chocolate flavour.

Finish: Funky mushroom, brine, cereal, chocolate, floral

Wow, lots of funk, brine, and chocolate. It feels, at first, like this is going in a different direction. If before there was a lack of cocoa (or the flavour with cocoa was more of that black pepper heat and missed out the earth to tell my brain it was cocoa).

Continues with a lot of the profile. But if you don’t like chocolate then this may not be your favourite.

Conclusion: Lots of chocolate. Based on not being able to see my dick, I really, really like chocolate.

Jokes aside, this was an earthy, sweet, and floral flavour. Bigger than anything should be after six years. It’s on the tour for a reason. Blunt big flavours that all work together. Lots of chocolate. People kill for chocolate for a reason. This seems like an easier way to enjoy.


Lagavulin 16 1998 Single Cask

Price: Still in the cask, go take the tour.

Region: Islay

Cask Type: Ex-bourbon cask

Abv: 51.8%

Colour: 10Y 8/6

Nose: Brine, lemon, soft peat, cocoa, bready

Okay, so this is a non-sherried version of the standard release which you’ll be able to find 6,000 reviews for at any given time. So I expect that. Also, I’m wrong.

Salty, lemon, and very soft peat. Lighter like what we’re used to from the standard, but no rounding it out with sherry. Some bread and cocoa as well with water.

Taste: Brine, ash, papaya, caramel, peach, grass

Salt, ash, and tropical fruit. Again, not what I’m expecting from a Lagavulin. Saltier. It’s almost like they swapped with Caol Ila and may have turned down the peat.

Any balance the nose had between sweet/earth/brine is gone. This is when you added too much salt to your cookies. Or… I don’t know, what sweets do normal people eat regularly that have too much salt?

Finish: White chocolate, wine gummies, algae, smoke, peach juice

Okay, what a direction to go in. I spend the nose and taste with salt and then this finish is massive amounts of sweet. The earth is separated, the smoke is simple, and it’s roughly sweet.

Very odd.

Conclusion: Too sweet, too earthy, and overall odd. I can’t say that it’s a bad dram. I can say it’s a bad dram for me. Salty, nice nose that hints at something that’s going to be different.

Instead, we end up with something that I feel needs more time or has issues that may be a new cask will fix or something. There are interesting notes that were made. Fruity, overly sweet finish has weird things. But it does show why sherry casks are beneficial, which is pretty cool.


Lagavulin 20 1998 Single Cask

Price: Still in the cask, go take the tour.

Region: Islay

Cask Type: Ex-sherry butt

Abv: 52%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/8

Nose: Smoked peach cobbler, mushroom, cranberry

Immediately, after having two ex-bourbon casks, I’m right back into enjoying sherry again. Like riding a bike again, or having sex with an ex-lover, or trying your favourite dessert from being a kid for the first time in a decade.

Brown butter, smoke, and peach. Immediate hit of that. Can’t pick them apart. Eventually earthy, woody and fruit notes on the outside with water. But overall? Smoked peach cobbler.

Taste: Licorice, butter, papaya, bacon, grass/fatty cream from Cornish cows

Alright, now I’m getting it. The smoke plus the sherry casks give us the butter, the grass, and that spice. Now it all makes sense.

This just keeps building. What starts as spice and butter keeps building up to tropical fruit, bacon, and then that amazing grassy/creaminess that you get from really really good cream or milk, from cows that actually eat grass.

Finish: Papaya, ash, peach, grassy, butter, herbal, perfect ice cream from Cornwall UK.

Again, that slow build up that makes your toes wiggle and your eyes see through space.

This is Cornwall, UK in a glass. Grassy, creamy, buttery, and a bit of fruit to add some acidity.

Conclusion: That buttery, grassy creaminess mixed with pepper and smoke. So good. It’s a butter bomb, perfect milk products. The nose starts out with that big, interesting flavour. That wonderful fruit and butter combo mixed with the smoke.

The rest goes on to be a glutton’s dream. Butter, bacon, spices, and tropical fruits. You may have to consult your doctor if you enjoy this for longer than four hours. Especially you ladies.


Lagavulin 21 1997 Single Cask

Price: Get your ass to the tour already!

Region: Islay

Cask Type: An ex-bourbon Hogshead from another distillery that had used it. So a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.

Abv: 52.4%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/4

Nose: Basil, lemongrass, cocoa, floral

Floral, herbal and cocoa. I’m really starting to believe that Lagavulin’s cocoa is built right into the malt itself, because it’s popping up, even after multiple coffees, walking outside, maybe punching myself just for good luck.

Simple nose. Not something I’d expect from a 21-year-old dram. Very shy and simple.

Taste: Tomato, peat, chocolate, macadamia, caramel

Wow, that acidity is weird. It lingers a long time. Did this cask come from Highland Park maybe? Sometimes I get a tomato from their drams. Water gives you more things to focus on, but nothing goes really above and beyond.

Finish: Cocoa, dry apple, cloves, brine, citra hops

Light. It’s really reminiscent of the standard Lagavulin. The slight fruit on the finish builds up with some herbs.

Conclusion: Less powerful, more odd notes and some off fruit funk/acidity. Tries something new, doesn’t really work as well. I get the feeling like they added this one for one of a few reasons: Show what happens with refill ex-bourbon casks and the dram, or show what the standard malt tastes like.

I get the feeling like this whisky will go into the standard. Maybe it was laid down and forgotten, or there’s nothing else to do with it. Probably the closest I had to the standard, but those odd notes keep it from being really nice or something I’d want to have again.


Lagavulin 25 1993 Single Cask

Price: See above. Seriously.

Region: Islay

Cask Type: Sherry cask. Specifically one of the casks that went into the 200th Anniversary 25-Year-Old.

Abv: 49.2%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/6

Nose: Butter, burnt flowers, marshmallow, fire pit

Not to get all teenage poetic, but the burnt flowers here are the main thing. That and the butter are frankly the first things I get. And I give this a ton of time. I know at this point I’m pretty inebriated, I’ve drunk enough coffee and water to kill most young children, so I need the time.

And so does the dram. Time gives you a campfire like setting. More time and even a bit of water actually mean you can identify it.

Taste: Papaya, ash, brown sugar, smoke, herbal, anise, burnt ends

Tropical, ashy. No chocolate. Guess I was wrong before. More of the sherry cask pushing out. Spices, burnt meat. Lots of flavours. This just keeps giving and giving.

Again though, it needs double or even triple the time. Kinda like us all as we age.

That’s a sex joke. In case you thought I got all nice and wistful.

Finish: The smell of walking up on a fire pit and breathing in through your mouth, gravel, pork, thyme, peanut brittle

The finish is where this reminds you it’s a 25-year-old dram, pure and simple. Lots and lots of fire pit notes don’t need time. Instead, they hit you over and over. It’s camping for the first time, the second time, and that time you caught a fish for the first time. Or got a handjob, I don’t know what your camping stories are, madam.

Lots of earth, herbal, and just a bit of sweetness. But those things need time.

Conclusion: More time means it starts to pay off. Needs a long time to oxidize. This took a long time to make, to curate if you will, so you better give it way more than you’d normally.

This is what I expect when I drink Lagavulin from an ex-sherry cask. This has evolved. Sadly it’s missing that chocolate that I loved before, but it does things with campfires usually reserved for hillbillies and fire dancers.

The taste is a kitchen sink of flavours. The finish will remove any doubt that campfires are magical. Not my favourite (I think it is a bit unbalanced) but certainly makes me want to find a sample of that 25-year-old version.


Scotch review #1025-1030, Islay review #271-276, Whisky Network review #1610-1615

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