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As everybody interested in single malts knows by now, this 8-year old bottling was released to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Lagavulin distillery in 1816. It was inspired by the visit of Alfred Barnard to the “village of Lagavulin” and the distillery in the 1880s when he wrote about an 8-year old that they tasted “and which was exceptionally fine”.
The nose starts off with soft smoke, brine and those malty and milky flavours that I love so much in the 12-year old special editions that are released every year: similar structure, just a little bit less pronounced. Next, I got walnuts, lemons and a hint of seaweed. Quite sooty and ashy, too – this is a fabulous nose!
The palate is medium-bodied, spicy and very dry. The lemon flavours are back, now together with a touch of cinnamon, more walnuts and plenty of white pepper. The soft smoke from the nose has been fully replaced by notes of soot and ash. Interestingly, the respectable 48% ABV do not really show on the palate – this is a surprisingly modest body.
The finish is long, warming and very, very sooty. Again there are notes of lemons and cinnamon, followed by a hint of white pepper.
So far, I have never tasted a Lagavulin that was not great and this 8-year old is no exception. It reminded me a lot of the yearly 12-year old special releases, only that it was less boisterous and less poised, which is why I am tempted to call this the little brother of the 12-year old. I love the reference to Alfred Barnard and the history behind it, and it is kind of fun to imagine that this is what Barnard might have tasted. In short: excellent stuff given the relatively young age of 8 years, and in terms of rating this is just one notch below the last 12-year old that I tried.