Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1997 | 43% abc (86 Proof), $109.99/bottle (Gift but was purchased Here)
Color/Appearance: Beautiful amber, may be from colorant or that finishing in Pedro ximemez casks, though this does have “the look”. That look that is so effortless for first-fill charred new oak barrels, but that Scottish whisky seems to desire. Why I am not sure, be yourself. Lagavulin purposefully only uses third fill bourbon barrels, no way those are imparting loads of color. They also have some Oloroso sherry casks in the mix and with this distillers edition have the finishing with a desert sherry (Pedro Ximénez). Nice legs here probably due to the lower alcohol content. New bottle design this year with the minty green label. Still ultra classy and awesome but not as iconic as the sixteen year.
Nose: Chocolate glazed cherries. Yummy delicious Lagavulin peat giving way to a wash of spicy scents. The whole range of peat’s glory. Diesel station on a wet night. Oaky dryness, wet leaves with a hint of some of the more floral aspects of peat. Heather and jasmine up the hills. Orange rind, vanilla and figs. Each time something new, each time something elusive. Just smelling this can be an amazing experience on its own.
Palate: Light and sweet entry giving way to the true power that these southern Islay malts contain. This may be balanced and complex with decadent barrel notes but this is 100% Islay. Almost all of the balance of the sixteen year but a little tilted to the sweet. Slightly chewy mouthfeel but this would be greatly enhanced by a few more percentage points of strength. This malt has a lot going on in the palate but I’m not sure it’s as successful here in the mouth as it is in the nose. The sixteen year old underneath it all is having her emerging voice slightly stifled by some interference from the cascade of gumdrop like fruity components of the desert sherry. The message is not as clearly delivered but you are always excited for every drop of this stuff.
Finish: Sucking on a peat soaked grape skin. The ultra slow fade of flavors bring out the Pedro Ximénez sherry so nicely with fig sweetness lingering in the mouth for ages, turning quite chocolatey with soft smoke and spice. Excellent finish.
Overall: A very very enjoyable malt here. Lagavulin is sort of mythic to me. Diageo may take/deserve a lot of flack but they do know enough to let Lagavulin do their own thing. Pricing is pretty high but not too bad when you look at today’s market and the excellent quality you are getting. Lagavulin is class. They extract such a sophisticated total experience from their raw ingredients it is truly amazing. There is no such thing as a bad Lagavulin. They only have three frequently available expressions, the classic sixteen, this desert finished distillers edition, and the cask strength twelve year. Obviously for their target audience, peat heads, this could be the weak link. I don’t really think so. Pedro Ximénez is a succulent and amazing desert sherry and if you know and love this devine beverage as I do you will see this distillers edition as a skillful marriage of these two amazing beverages. Does the sixteen year showcase the peat better and have more overall balance? Yes, but it doesn’t have the fruity complexity that this finishing sherry brings. This is Lagavulin at its most decadent and luscious. If that isn’t exciting for you then I truly am jealous of you. Here is such a well crafted product that anyone is sure to enjoy. For some the distillers edition might be over the top, and over finished, but the resulting decadence and craft is surely a pleasing result. All the brilliance of the sixteen is here but dressed up some. If you can handle that an excellent whisky awaits.