My first real encounter with this peated whisky from Islay was the Lagavulin 16 Year Old. I remember (re-reading my feb 2010 review) that I thought it magnificent. In fact, I’m currently enjoying a second bottle of that expression and I feel it should be in any whisky lover’s cabinet. This week, I’ll be trying a few other Lagavulin expressions, starting with this 12 Year Old Special Release from 2002.
I was expecting a peatbomb, but that didn’t happen. But what a pleasant surprise this nose is. It all starts off nicely fruity with some mint, loads of apples and a touch of coffee…doh?! Only after a few seconds, the typical Islay character kicks in: smoky notes, something that reminds me of chalk and other ocean associations, such as a campfire on the beach. Wonderful nose.
Despite the 57,8% ABV, it’s goes down easily – albeit nicely peppered! – with sweet fruit and quite a bit of peat. Oh, yes, now the peat crawls from under whatever rock it had been hiding and makes its presence known in full force. Much more peat than you would have expected from the nose. The taste goes crescendo until it reaches its height with a salty kick in the teeth, that completely overpowers the sweet fruit.
The finish is lingering and warm, but very salty and peated. A bit too much to my taste.
The nose promised great things to come, but the dram was unable to fulfill that promise on the palate. This young Lagavulin is quite rough and less balanced than the classic 16 Year Old, which I prefer. Until 1987, this 12 Year Old was the standard expression (at a more drinkable alcohol level), but was added to the Classic Malts of Scotland line up in its current 16 Year Old version.