I don't often get a bunch of different Lagavulins in the house (though I have stored away the 1979 and 1980 DEs!), so let's try both the new 200th Anniversary 8 Year Old, and the new 2015 12 Year Old, and compare to the ubiquitous 16 Year Old.
The 8 Year Old was bottled as a bicentennial edition, and what's great about it is how relatively inexpensive it is. You would think a one-time bottling like this would be old and super-pricey, but it clearly was meant to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Bravo!
The colour is a very light straw. Funny I mention straw, since that's what you get on the nose (very dry), with bright lemon, chocolate mint and brine. Medicinal with iodine. A bit metallic. Of course, wafts of peat smoke. With water we get light honey, crisp cereal notes and more peat smoke. Classic Laga nose, though a bit too young.
On the palate the lemon slowly grows more prominent, with prickly peat, Rice Krispies and a bit too much salt (even more so with water). Peppery as well, though, and buttery. Like the nose, very nice (and more on the sweet side) but to be honest, could use more time in oak.
The finish is long, mouth-drying and developing with very light oak, cayenne pepper and more mint. This is a very bright, fresh Lagavulin, with the oak so light it almost jumps out of the glass. And no sherry in sight, as far as I can tell. A bit too young but it does work - an Islay for a summer afternoon. Far lighter than the 16, and lacking the rich fruity depth on the nose and palate; but the 8 sends that bright lemony peat smoke into the stratosphere.