Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

The Whisky Odyssey Fèis Ìle 2024 Special
Lagavulin Day: tasting notes of some legends

Fèis Ìle starts today. It is the Islay Festival of Malt and Music and is considered one of the most beautiful and enchanting whisky festivals on this blue planet. I cherish the memory of a few memorable visits to the peat-infused island of Islay in the past, most notably 2016 when the Lagavulin Distillery celebrated their 200th anniversary in style, with many tastings, enticing tours and excellent special bottles. We stocked up and enjoyed. The moments were all too short, but memories last forever. Things are however looking up for me, since a short visit to the island is in the books for January 2025.

Talking about forever, it has been since forever that Lagavulin kicks off the week. Today is Lagavulin Day. We took a deep dive into the sample drawer to bring you some nice examples of what the distillery released upon the whisky public in recent years. We try to build up from strength to strength.

Lagavulin 1998 Distillers Edition, bottled at 43 % abv

Makeup: A vintage Lagavulin bottled in 2014, making it equal to the standard 16 years old, but with extra maturation in Pedro Ximénez Sherry Wood. There is no information on the length of the finish. The bottle in the new livery since 1997, when the dark and menacing dark label Lagavulin bottles were replaced by this more chic labels. Batch number is lgv.4/503.

General impressions: If there is one single malt whisky that can stand up against the heavy influence of PX casks, then Lagavulin is the one. Strong sense of peat rising from the glass, taming the sweeter notes of the sherry, creating a sizzling meaty aroma. No detectable off notes, very balanced, excellent stuff. The taste however does display a lovely sweet note, like it envelops the regular, naked Lagavulin and makes it a more softer drinking experience. The finish comes with a vengeance, full of smoke and peat, and lingers on with a delicious warmth. Now, the only complaint we have about this Lagavulin DE, is that the bottling strength has taken some brilliance away. But, as it was obviously aimed at a more broader market, this seems a very sensible decision.

Conclusion: Magnificent stuff and good benchmark Lagavulin when you want to stride into more challenging directions, like we are going to do with the next two samples of this Lagavulin Day. We know that some leftover batches of the Distillers Edition made into this or that special Fèis Ìle or Distillery Only expressions. These indeed had something extra, at higher abv.

Score: 85 points

Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2019, 19 years old, bottled at 53,8 % abv

Makeup: Matured in sherry-treated American oak casks. For the celebration of Fèis Ìle 2019 some 6000 bottles where created.

General impressions: Imagine that, such high age Lagavulin, for all these lucky festivalgoers. An amazing treat delivered by a distillery with a rather modest core range. I remember this was also a rather affordable expression, which is also an amazing feature. But does it taste good? Well, the aroma rising from the glass makes the DE we tasted before pale a little. This is the full blown version of the Distillers Edition, but endlessly more complex. More meaty notes, and the peated characteristics are more enhanced, probably due to the American oak. 

Also some minty and pine wood tones. Very complex and interesting, I must say, but also all over the place. On the taste we are again reminded of the DE, with some sweetness on the palate, fused with minty chocolate and a very warming finish. True campfire whisky. Water makes for an easier drinking experience, with lots of milk chocolate.

Conclusion: A rather complex and at times unbalanced special Lagavulin, but on sheer strength it reaches great hights!

Score: 90 points

Lagavulin 1997, 21 years old, bottled at 56,6 % abv

Makeup: Cask number 0001 was filled in 1997 and 21 years later we saw this European oak cask bottled for European Lagavulin Fans in the Select Casks series. Among them whisky friends from Wu Dram Clan and the WhiskyNerds. We should be set for a good finale for this session. 158 bottles came out.

General impressions: There are days that I do not drink 21 years old Lagavulin, so this is a moment to savour anyway. The whisky opens very juicy, with hints of pine forest and mint too. The peat is beautifully mature and relax now, after 21 years in the cask. Lots of liquorice, which is normally indeed related to Lagavulin. So, despite being a single cask, also a very classic bottling for true fans. With water, this tense Laga becomes more talkative, with signs of wet concrete.

The liquorice remains on the tongue, but there is a sharp peaty attack messing with the senses. The overall feeling is a bit hot so I prefer a small drop of water, but certainly not too much. Despite the concrete smells, this feels like a Lagavulin bottle you could dig up under a tree in an Islay forest. The sweet note that is released with the water and contrasts so beautifully with the peat that is the DNA of Lagavulin, makes for an exquisite experience.

Conclusion: Difficult Lagavulin, that you have to wrestle to make it release all the secrets it holds. I promise you, this whisky will present a new face every time you pour a glass for a relaxed evening.

Score: 92 points
Disclaimer: all samples taken from self-owned bottles or samples shares. With kind regards. Photo provided by the last tasting note by the WhiskyNerds.

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