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The Lagavulin 16 Years Old is an enchanting antique gold colour. It is also particularly powerful in flavour, not uncharacteristic of Islay whiskies. As I type this, the thistle glass is sitting about two feet away from me (with a lid on!) and I am still picking up strong smoky, chemically aromas.
As above, the nose is extremely powerful, with smoke and iodine. The smoke is definitely wood, rather than coal and there is a hint of burned gunpowder. After the fire and chemicals, more mellow notes arrive; vanilla, sea-water and a little heather. A deep-filled apple pie with demerara sugar on top and crème Anglaise follows in the end as the nose sweetens up.
The initial impact on the palate is mellow, cream and fruit jellies. This is followed by a big, bitter smoke and high-cocoa dark chocolate. This fades slowly and leaves behind a bitter, salty iodine-soaked wood and the smallest hint of vanilla again.
The mouth is a middling viscosity and the flavours do manage to get into every corner, the finish is exceptionally long and woody.
I wouldn't recommend the addition of water, but for the sake of completeness (again) here goes:
The nose loses a lot of the fire and iodine, leaving behind only sweet apples and a little pear with toffee and custard.
The palate is spoiled entirely by water, thinning the mouth-feel, although generally leaving the finish unchanged. The main element in the palate now is damp, wood. Lots and lots of wood. There is a little heather, cigar smoke and vanilla, but generally just wood.
It's been a while since I've pulled this out of my whisky cupboard and I was a little disappointed. Perhaps I've built it up romantically in my memory as something it could never live up to, but there was less happening flavour-wise than I expected.
Still, it's a smashing dram in spite of this.