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This is the first Lagavulin review I've written - and the first bottle of Lagavulin I've every purchased and opened! (I've tasted the 16 year old at bars, and the 1995 DE at Via Allegro - and I bought a couple of bottles to invest in - but never to drink!)
Lagavulin is one of the best selling single malts in Scotland (less than 15% of the malt is left for blends - the rest are sold as single malt). But it didn't really become a huge seller until it became a "Classic Malt" in 1988 and was marketed as such.
The 12 Year Old is a limited annual release - this bottle is the 10th release, bottled in 2010. It is cask strengh.
The colour is light hay with yellow highlights - I would presume it is not coloured but it doesn't say on the packaging. On the nose, dry hay, sweet malt, sawdust, light brown sugar, and light peat smoke. Water tames the alcohol and brings out the maltiness.
The palate is sweeter than the nose, light honey with a burst of peat, some caramel and lemon juice. Tangy and fuller bodied somehow than the 16 year old (which seems counter-intuitive, despite the cask strength bottling). Creamier and tangier with water. A very interesting and provocative combination of sweet and tart. Love it!
The finish is long, with lingering peat and a light hint of caramel. Long but light and not overpowering as you might expect. This is a fantastic whisky, quite different from the 16 year old - younger (in a good way), more robust but also wilder and less balanced. It's an explosion of flavour in your mouth, very exciting and vibrant. If, like Ron Swanson, you love your Lagavulin 16 - if you are getting a little tired of it, jazz it up once in a while with this one, then go back to the 16 you love. It's like having a fling with your wife's younger sister!