Lagavulin 12yo CS 56.5% OB, bottled in 2010 (L0112CM000 01666951) gift from my wife on Valentine’s Day 2011: opened 10/10/2012
This bottle has scored all over the map for me. On the night I first opened the bottle is scored very highly. And ever since then the scores have been on the decline. Personally, I don’t think the bottle changed that much. I think the variation in the score had to do with what I tasted against. Here is a compilation of several tasting notes:
Nose: Starts very coy and shy. Soft fumes on a hot day kind of thing. With time the peat really starts to grow. Very different from the 16yo: this one has none of the rich velvet or mellow smoothness; rather, it is a high tone peat attack. I am now picking up on what I am calling woodsy peat. Obviously, it shares with the 16yo the same peat tonal characteristics. Now comes strong lemon and citrus notes with ocean waves behind it. The sweetness is on a different tonal frequency then the 16yo. This is much higher pitched and closer to Ardbeg then the Lag 16. Now, fresh wood chips, Clementine oranges, and limes, then it becomes very antiseptic with ash from a bonfire. With more time it gets much more mossy with seaweed and decomposing vegetation. But given all this complexity is seems surprisingly unrefined. I guess that is the nature of casks strength? This is one I wonder what water would do . . . maybe we will find out later. With water this baby really open up and drops down in tone to a baritone. Truly astounding. Much more like the 16yo then I would have expected. The peat is now super strong and punishing with wood and seaweed in the background. Now there is that hint of astringency and iodine that I love. Actually better with a little water (I don’t often say that).
Taste: Much sweeter then the 16yo and lighter as well. A healthy dollop of peat and a growing fire of sea salt, but nothing bitter or off. Dirty and dry up front; almost dusty peat. A bit of leather and woody vegetation start to grow with the salt. With water there is much more wood and oak apparent.
Finish: Huge wave of peat fire (my kind of finish). It almost peals the paint off your face. Acid peat eats at your mouth. Tons of that seaweed and decomposing vegetation linger as do the wood chips. A huge ash cloud envelops your mouth. Very nice lovely finish with tons of power. As the peat tapers off you are left with hints of leather, tire, coal, oak, and salty seaweed. Having tasted this next to Laphroaig 10yo CS batch 004 and Corryvreckan this is easily the most smoky finish of the three.
Complexity, Balance: Not as complex or as balanced as the 16yo: no surprise that next to its older brother this is an immature bruiser. The younger age and significantly higher ABV make this a youthful ruffian. The nose and taste are not as balanced with the finish as I would suggest is appropriate. Further, it also doesn’t have the balance of the Corry or the Laphroaig 10yo CS 004. I am actually prefer the Lag 16 over this in the complexity and balance category.
Aesthetic experience: Love this bottle shape and the continued use of the Lagavulin cork seal. I do appreciate the redistribution of the age information to the smaller sticker . . . however . . . it doesn’t looks as classic as the original 16 year old. Still, the healthy 56.5% makes me very happy indeed. But the bourbon matured does leave this spirit very light. All in all very lovely.
Conclusion: I really like this bottle, and I am very glad it has been in regular release. That said, next to the Ardbeg Corry and Laphroaig 10yo CS batches this doesn’t quite have the “it” I am looking for. My enjoyment of this bottle has changed quite a bit of the past year. When I first opened it I scored near a 95. I think my enthusiasm for this bottle might have colored my early score. The next time I scored it a 91 and then a 92. My last score put it up against Corry and Laphroaig 10yo CS and the score suffered in comparison earning only 89. I personally don’t usually see my scores vary this greatly with a bottle. But what can a guy do? Be honest about it I guess. I have to believe that this bottle stacks up well against some bottles and not so great against others (for me). I think the average is a fair number for this bottle. 92
For me I would take a good batch over Lagavulin 16 over this. But that is just me