Three Lagavulin Reviews

I’ve never been to Islay. There was some discussion of going this year, with friends, kinda stalled a bit, then was pushed off to another year, and then even the replacement plans have gotten a bit rough.

I hope that someday when life has changed again, I can visit Isly for Feis Ile. Or around Feis Ile. Or just to Islay when the distilleries are open.

Today we’ll be living virtually instead and visiting through Lagavulin Feis Ile releases. The question for those of us not on the island is always the same: How do I spontaneous learn how to teleport and avoid the Ship of Theseus dilemma, or barring that, how do I reconcile having morales but also killing on of the people going and wearing their skin in order to go?

Both of these questions are better left to your philosophers or psychiatrists, really, and you shouldn’t bring them up here. What’s wrong with you?

The other question, usually asked after the awkward ones and while reviewing auctions, is if the releases from these festivals are worth it?

Let’s see, shall we?

Thanks to Tim for this sample

Lagavulin Jazz Festival 2017

Price: €175

Region: Islay

Bottled: 2017

Cask Types: Refill American Hogshead and Refill European Butts

Number of Bottles: 6,000

Abv: 57.6%

Colour: 10Y 9/6

Nose: Butter, anise, ash, lemon pudding, basil

Alright, bit tamer than other Lagavulin’s I’ve had. More citrus/herbal notes, closer to Caol Ila though less rough. Kinda left me waiting for the next thing on the nose, the main attraction, and when that was lemon pudding I reacted like Green Lantern to that idea.

Less than enthused, for those of you who have different hobbies.

Taste: Walnut, anise, tahini, brine, butter

Interesting nutty/seedy note, however, we’re running into a similar issue here. It’s nearly there with a Dukkah-type of thing, though it doesn’t quite have the spice to hit that amazing mixture’s taste.

Finish: Anise, lilac, pickled carrots, mint, lemon

Nice pickled and floral note at the end. Bit of sweet, a bit of Mediterranean fun, though again I’ left wanting. Where’s the jazz? I’m not even looking for full Jazz flute, just maybe some different and odd directions.

Conclusion: Nose is lacking, and overall this whole thing should be more complex given the types used and the cask level. And Jazz, somehow. It’s like they tried this and it was close to Dukkah or floral aspects and thought “Well that’s different” without it being different enough. It’s gone to tame, too light.

That’s not to say that’s not something worth drinking. I didn’t hate it. It’s just not there for me. Or worth the money for me. I’d keep this around for whisky nerds, maybe.


Lagavulin 1995 – Feis Ile 2013

Price: €399.00

Region: Islay

Vintage: 08.05.1995

Bottled: 15.02.2013

Age: 17-years-old

Cask type: European Oak Sherry Butts

Number of bottles: 3,000

Abv: 51%

Colour: 10YR 4/8

Nose: Blueberry, cashew, varnish, licorice, smoked meat, cinnamon buns

Alright, here we go. Strong fruit notes, nuttiness, stronger spice, some big meatiness, and even some development on butter.

Now we’re drinking special Lagavulin. Daddy’s home, if you will.

Taste: Wood, peanut, earth, papaya, birch sap

Huh. Alright, perhaps we were a bit premature on announcing your father coming into the room. Guess I’ll put back on my pants.

Wood focused, earthy, tropical fruit, and nutty are nice. Though I’m looking for the bill of goods that the nose was talking about.

Finish: Butter, cashew, smoked pork, cinnamon bread, popcorn

Oh, there it is. Buttery, pork-forward, fatty/nutty, and back to that good quick bread recipe flavour. Very nice.

Conclusion: Basically an amazing nose and a really nice finish with good buttery and pork-filled notes. The taste could have been a bit more developed but didn’t turn me off of this one. This is closer to what you’d expect from a special edition Lagavulin.

It does what the original does, but slightly stronger/better. It’s hard to add to how good the original was, even if I probably scored it a bit higher than I should have. However here we’re seeing why I come back to Lagavulin. If you’re looking for an upgrade, this is it.


Lagavulin 2001 – Feis Ile 2017

Thanks to /u/throwboats for this dram.

Price: £ 175

Region: Islay

Cask Type: Double Matured in Moscatel (sweet wine from Muscat grapes) Oak Wood

Number of bottles 6,000

Abv: 56.1%

Colour: 5Y 9/6

Nose: Raspberry jam, nectarine, red grapes, roasted chestnut, cloves

Rich. Wow rich, immediately the fruit is stronger and varied. Nice nuttiness comes through with some spice, but fruit on the nose is the main aspect here.

Taste: Anise, pine nuts, butter, cashew butter, grape compote, dark chocolate blueberries, honey

Complexity is going on here. Lots of nutty, spicy, buttery, strong rich grape, dark chocolate… it just keeps going. Rich, rich dram. I want more after each sip.

Finish: Walnut, rich currant, rapini, brown sugar, shiitake mushroom, campfire

Nutty, more richness, strong umami notes and that peat/smoke blast come out with time. Vegetal bitterness wraps itself in there.

Conclusion: Rich, flavourful dram. Think of the norm and amp up the richness, the number of flavours, and everything else. The whisky pairs well with the wine cask and makes something better than your parents.

So, we’ve had a miss, an “I’d be happy enough with it” pick, and now we have “I get why this would be released for a special occasion” version. I’m sad that Feis Ile was cancelled, however, I think this will give me the chance to really enjoy it once I’m able to visit. Some day.


Scotch reviews #1220-2, Islay reviews #314-6, Whisky Network reviews #1869-71

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