When cleaning out some ‘flagged’ emails from my mailbox I realized I still have some unpublished stuff from Tom van Engelen, waiting for release on this wee blog.
So, this time (or actually, last summer) Tom wrote some stuff about a Lagavulin and what he thinks is a Lagavulin. Let’s dive in!
“Laggan Mill” is in a way what the name of arguably the most famous whisky distillery on Islay stands for. It is also a name to put on independent bottlings of Lagavulin. It is a rare treat to have a Lagavulin in the glass that is not the well known 16 Years Old flagship or one of the variations (an 8 and 12 years old and a Distillers Edition). But the tide is also turning. We already got a travel retail expression at 10 years of age which was good, not perfect. And there is also this weird little “Offerman Edition”, bottled at 11 years of age, which I will review today. But first, let’s warm up with an independently bottled single cask from Lagavulin.
Laggan Mill Secret Islay, bottled 2018, bourbon cask 324733, 46%
Of course, you can never be sure this IS actually Lagavulin, but the aromas coming from the glass make it a no-brainer for me. This is Lagavulin as the Ardbeg Wee Beastie was supposed to be: fierce, peaty, strong. Very, very reminiscent of the regular 8 years old. An excellent balance between the abundant peat bog after drizzling rain and the sweetness brought by the vanilla.
Soft and supple on the tongue, making it an oily experience and a delight to let it just circle around in the mouth. I always loved the “limited” 8 Years Old of the 200th anniversary in 2016 (haven’t tasted the regular one that was added to the core range). This single cask is an even more outspoken expression of it. Sadly we don’t know the age of this beauty, but I am guessing it’s between 6 and 8 years old.
Like swallowing distilled seawater, no other words for it. Very clean, delicately salty and maybe a bit short. But yeah, this is very pure stuff. I brings me back to one of my first visits to Islay, where Iain McArthur would let you taste a sample of young Lagavulin straight from the cask, and you would get down on your knees and beg for a whole bottle of it. Cooper’s Choice delivered.
Good old spirit driven whisky, and in this case from one of the best distilleries in the world. I immediately bought two bottles of this (at € 46,50 each, a true steal). I think I had the last two of them from the Whiskybase Shop, because the link stopped working after that…
Damn, this review was supposed to be about the Offerman Edition! It now has a lot to live up to. Without further ado, here it is. Made up from, as far as I could discover with Google, ex-bourbon filled and rejuvenated bourbon casks. See how stories can distract?
Lagavulin Offerman Edition, 11yo, 46 %
Hmm, very closed up, even though I opened the sample I was able to acquire from our good friend Norbert quite some time before starting the tasting. A very tame expression to say the least. Nice to enjoy with a book next to a fireside. It’s more on dark inland smells, mud and grassy elements. A “land” cask instead of a “sea” cask, like the Laggan Mill so clearly is? Interesting. (Warning: don’t add water, it drowns.)
Spicy and dominant on chocolate notes. A little harsh even though the abv is pleasant enough. Yeah, this is clearly a “darker” Lagavulin, a distant relative of some of the less outspoken Feis Ile expressions (the 2018 edition comes to mind). The different casks used in the vatting do add the complexity that the Laggan Mill misses, but also loses a little enthusiasm. One sip of this is enough to knock you off your feet, like a boxer, who then leans over you and advises you to stay down.
The balance of the whole package is amazing. Whoever gets to create the batches of Lagavulin must be a king … just like this malt is now described the King of Islay. It goes down warming and friendly, with a classic peaty afterburn that brings back memories of older classics. This is a worthy addition to the range. If it ever becomes available on the European market I will definitely add it to the collection. If the retailer manages to keep it affordable, that is.
I love the sheer enthusiasm that I found in the Laggan Mill, so take the scores with a pinch of (sea) salt; the former is so up my alley that the latter could not win today. Both Lagavulins are highly recommended!
About Tom van Engelen
I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.