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I bought a sample or two of this because I was pretty curious about it. I've got a bottle of the 1985 original, but haven't tried it. By most accounts, this was supposed to be a bit less obviously/heavily sherried, more finesse than power. All the same, it's hard to go wrong with Lagavulin.
Nose: Peat, camphor, medicinal, and good salty brine. Really reminds me of the usual Lagavulin profile at this point, even without the usual oxidized sherry element. Suddenly, emerging from behind the curtain, comes some red fruit - it's the sherry! It takes some time to develop, but it comes through and turns to oranges, red grapefruit, and red currants. Something rather plastic, rags damp from petrol. Mint, red sweets, all-spice, a really dry sweetness. It's no sherry bomb, and nothing overwhelms. Finesse is a pretty good way to think of this. Reminds me of a tighter, more elegant version of the Lagavulin DE.
Palate: Medium-body. Honeyed, bitter ginger root, tobacco, pinch of pepper. Polish and very heavy leather (it's good) that leaves an imprint. Ashy, and a bit cool. Sea-weed and good ol' peat.
Finish: The sherry returns a bit with the salted meats, dates/figs, dark chocolate malt, and coffee notes. Peat remains lightly smokey and very much like antiseptic.
This is very good, and I do like the more clear red and orange fruit compared to the 16, though the '95 DE was a bit sweeter. It's elegant and very well composed. A- (pick a number)
I like this a lot. But, in the scheme of things, is it worth $600? It's really great, and I'm glad for getting the samples because I don't see myself paying that type of cash for this expression, especially when you can get the DE without too much trouble. To be fair, this is a much cleaner and precise profile, and it's got a bit more balance, but it also lacked the power and seductive chewiness that I love about the 16 and DE.