Reviewed by Ted
Balance. Subtlety. Lagavulin 16yr old. As George Takei would say: “Oh my…“.
Heralding from Islay, that near-mythical island of Scottish whisky making, the Lagavulin 16 is aged for most of its life in American oak bourbon casks, then finished in European sherry oak. The maturation sheds of Lagavulin distillery bear the full brunt of the winds and spray of the Atlantic Ocean, and these caress the barrels, imparting their spirit into the developing whisky.
The delicate nose of the Lagavulin 16 has wonderful hints of brine, sea air and mineral salts balanced against a warm brush of smoke and caramelised fruit. The colour is a very light amber, with almost a hint of green, like the first blush of patina on bronze.
After an initial warming hit of peat, the seaside elements make a return with engagingly salty, bitter, metallic notes tempered by nutty caramel and pear. Finally the lovely peat smoke glides across the back of the tongue and down the throat, leaving a peppery finish. This isn’t the usual hearty, roaring bonfire that so typifies many Islay whiskies, but rather the gentle, delicate smouldering of a seaside campfire in the soft golden light of a still dawn. A moment to reflect and savour.
If any of these flavours were too dominant, particularly those drawn from the ocean environment, then this expression of Islay would be diminished, perhaps even unpleasant. Yet in balancing all the parts so precisely against each other, and weaving them so subtly together, a magnificent tapestry is created. The skill of the Lagavulin distillers laid bare. This is a whisky for those quiet, contemplative moments in life, and a truly worthy addition to any collection.