Lagavulin is the classic Islay single malt for many whisky enthusiasts. The distillery is owned by the British multinational alcoholic beverages company Diageo. In 1816 a local farmer and distiller John Johnston founded the distillery on the south western shores of Islay. A year later Archibald Campbell founded a second nearby. The distilleries were united under Alexander Graham after Johnston’s death. Eventually business magnate Peter Mackie bought the business and continued the strong tradition of distilling peaty whisky.
The malted barley used to distlill Lagavulin is purchased from nearby Port Ellen. The barley is heavily peated and spends between 55 to 75 hours slowly smoking over a peat fueled fire. Lagavulin distills it’s wort longer than any other Islay – about five hours for the first distillation and nine hours for the second. This longer than usual distillation is said to create a roundness of flavor and a softer finish.
Lagavulin is best known for it’s 16 year core expression, but the Distillers’ Edition is also highly coveted. The Distillers’ Edition is aged in oak casks then finished in ex-Pedro Ximenz sherry butts. The sherry mellows out the dram making it a sweet, less peaty sibling to the 16 year old.
Nose: smoky, heavy, campfire
Mouth: apple, toffee, sweet for an islay, then the peat kicks in and smokes your mouth
Finish: lingers for a while, oaky, traces of peat
Verdict: This is an interesting dram from Lagavulin. I’m a bit conflicted. As you know I thoroughly enjoy the peatiness of Islay single malts, Lagavulin 16 is one of my favorites. To say that the Distillers’ Edition (DE) is a less intense version of the 16 year would not be sufficient. The DE is also sweeter, more full bodied and complex. So the DE has that going for it, but it definitely left me was craving for more smokiness and rich peat flavor. If DE was priced lower then it might’ve received a better score, but for nearly $100 a bottle, you’d expect something more special.
Where to Buy
Columbus Wines and Spirits - 730 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10025
Astor Wines & Spirits - 399 Lafayette St New York, NY 10003
Park Avenue Liquor Shop - 292 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Where to Sip