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Back in the midst of time Lagavulin and Laphroaig had a rather more lively rivalry than they do today. In fact, there was even a still within Lagavulin (AKA Malt-mill) attempting to replicate the Laphroaig spirit! Now though Lagavulin is well appreciated for its own character.
These distilleries are sort of old money in the world of Islay with the emergence and resurgence of others, especially Ardeg, Kilchoman along with Bruichladdich and all of its derivations. This should not be forgotten, Islays distinctive aristocrat, 12 years old and at cask strength.
Nose: reasonably well balanced to be honest. Smoky sooty peat, medium earthiness, seaweed, very over-extracted coffee. With water smoked fish, dry earth, more intense coffee, and a much more phenolic style of peat, pungent, some petrol. These are all big powerful aromas, but they are well woven together very well, she’s a complex nose.
Pallet: fire, intense salt, aniseed bitterness, plenty of peat, almond, just a hint of citrus sweetness there, trying to get a look in, dark chocolate, bitter coffee again. With water starts with sweet toffee, stone fruit, then salt again, then the peat builds as you hold and swallow, notes of dark chili chocolate, something slightly mineral and definitely rose water, maybe even a touch of jasmine as well.
Finish: quite nutty, the peat and smoke built up and fade away regularly, some sweetness there too, hard to pin down but it’s there, salty, eventually it goes a bit acidic and dry. With water clings to your cheeks, it’s nice dry earth, medium peat and smoke wafting away, savoury finish, elements of citrus again and cocoa. Very dry
Mark neat – 8.5, with water – 9.2.
If you can be bothered reading an extended metaphor, please continue, if not, fair enough and thanks for getting this far.
Lagavulin is to Laphroaig as Audi is to Lamborghini. The Laga's is very peaty, its phenolic but its not outrageous or ridiculous, its controlled, measured, well engineered. This is not to say its boring or anything, as you can see i very much like it. It's complex and beautifully constructed whisky, but everything is on a leash, everything is efficient. I like that sort of thing.