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Lagavulin 8 Year Old / 200th Anniversary

Jack Daniels and Smoke

2 4387

@RianCReview by @RianC

8th Jan 2018

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    87

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

No need for introductions here: This bottle has been open about a month and is half full.

Nose - Jack Daniels, seriously. Synthetic banana, vanilla, very sweet like an old style penny tray. Smoke and ash. A medicinal tang. Hint of iodine and a little coastal influence but no one particular thing jumps out.

Taste - Pretty much what I get on the nose. Very sweet arrival then it becomes more phenolic with the ash dominating. I prefer this to the nose.

Finish - fairly long with the smoke and ash lingering. Some very mild tannins and there's a residue of sweetness left, more of the banana.

A couple of drops of water improve this one for me. It softens the overt sweet notes and brings it all into a better balance. The smoke notes take on more of the sweetness and a lovely licorice note emerges.

A little bit briefer review than normal but quite busy currently and have wanted to do this one for a while now. I'll conclude by saying this is enjoyable but, like the 16, I find it perhaps not as good as it could be or, perhaps more accurately, as I expected. I feel as if they turn their whiskies up to 8 or 9 instead of going all the way to 11.

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43 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

@RianC, synthetic banana makes it to 87 points to you? Curious. Guess I'll just have to sample from your bottle of it. This is also the first time I have seen Lagavulin analogized to Jack Daniel's.

On the relative quality of Lagavulin 8, EVERYONE (I've read) says the same thing: "This is pretty good. This is OK. This is perfectly adequate. This could be a little better." I tasted it once and thought just the same things, which is why I'll never likely buy a bottle of it as long as there are the Lagavulin 12 year old Cask Strength and the Lagavulin DE available.

11 months ago 2Who liked this?

@Hewie
Hewie commented

Less than stellar then. I was going to ask what a penny tray is - but asked uncle google instead. So, a tray of sweets? (penny mix tray).

11 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC commented

@Victor - It's not an unpleasant note of banana per se more of a sweet/toffee banana note as opposed to fresh. I find the same note in JD and it makes me wonder if they use JD barrels? It just makes it a bit too sweet for my tastes. In an 8 year old Islay I want a slap of peat, this is more of a cuddle! I remember my sample from MoM last year as being 'better'.

I think the mark reflects that, while I don't find it exactly to my tastes, it is still a quality product and would no doubt be enjoyed more than me by many.

11 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Pretty good. OK. Perfectly adequate...yes, yes, yes, for the umpteenth time. @RianC, other people like it a lot more than you do? Maybe, but they all seem to grade it at almost exactly the same score that you do.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC commented

@Hewie - Uncle Google ha! Yes, penny tray mix. Especially those synthetic banana flavoured, er, bananas ;)

It was most likely a northern colloquialism to refer to it as simply 'penny tray'.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC commented

@Victor - ha! I was about to add as a last throw away comment 'perfectly adequate' grin

It's nay bad, then.

11 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

"Northern colloquialism" = the north of England, I am guessing?

11 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC commented

@Victor - Yes! I did think of expanding on it but assumed, wrongly it would seem, that those trays of penny (1c etc) sweets in the little wooden dividers were common to all and the term would make sense. klaek

I could easily get through £1 worth in one sitting, hence the fillings, but never did much like the banana ones. . . .

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@RianC, I also had a "better" experience and then a later experience closer to "adequate."

First: I opened a bottle of it with my club in November 2015. Good stuff. Everyone liked it. I liked it enough to buy my own bottle a few months later.

But then second: That later bottle I bought for myself is much less impressive. As I've said elsewhere, its young peat is kinda nasty in the same way that Big Peat is kinda nasty. Undercooked, I reckon.

I won't buy it again. For the style it's shooting for, I'd much rather take Ardbeg Ten.

11 months ago 2Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Victor I think if it were not considerably cheaper than the rest of the Lagavulin core, it would be considered considerably less than adequate. My experience is somewhat like @MadSingleMalt 's: Initially very impressed with both nose and taste, and pleased (and perhaps unduly influenced) by the fact that Lagavulin would age state an 8 year old anniversary edition. But further along and further down the bottle considerably less so. I bought two at the same time and one currently languishes in the bunker. I'll eventually give it another opportunity to impress me.

11 months ago 2Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC commented

@MadSingleMalt - Yeah, Ardbeg 10 for me as well. Worth a look but there's better out there and in the UK it's about the same price as the 16.

11 months ago 0

@Robert99
Robert99 commented

@RianC I was like you and let my bottle unattended for 4 months and then BAM! The smoke has explosed, the ash is big, everything is bigger. Now, I would certainly rate my bottle 6 to 8 points higher than it was.

11 months ago 2Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@Robert99, interesting. That is certainly useful information.

11 months ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Robert99 Very interesting. I knocked my first one off pretty quickly. I'll take it slower with the second one.

11 months ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

I've been taking it slow with my second bottle and it still sucks pond water, as my dad would say. I think it's been open almost a year.

11 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC commented

@MadSingleMalt - Shame! What would you rate it out of interest? On reflection I would probably give this a mark less at 86.

11 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC commented

@Robert99 - Maybe I'll put it away for a few months then. I've plenty to open and could see this working better in warmer weather.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@RianC Maybe it needs more than a couple of drops of water. (mineral not pond).

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@RianC, I think I've got a personal bias against that particular not-ready-for-prime-time flavor that I've started to fixate on in some young peaters that have failed to win my affections lately. Plus, my attitude toward the Lag 8 has become more sour as I've been discussing it here and elsewhere the last few weeks. So take my rating with a grain of salt.

I give it a 75-80.

However, its flaws and the Laphroaig QC's flaws complement each other perfectly. The two mixed together are easily an 85+.

11 months ago 2Who liked this?

@Robert99
Robert99 commented

@MadSingleMalt What are the flaws of the QC for you? I like the QC best when it is a bit vulgar and rough. The 8 doesn't need more ooomph now and I like the buttery side of the distillery still being there. So maybe it is more on my whisky path, so I don't feel the need to mix these two.

11 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC commented

@BlueNote - pond water?

I have tried it with more than a few drops but find it starts to lose a lot of the smokey notes and becomes to thin for my tastes.

11 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC commented

@BlueNote - Doh! The pond water was @MadSingleMalt's comment, I see that now!

Depends on the pond I suppose?

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC commented

@MadSingleMalt - I'm not sure whether I'd say this isn't ready? It's certainly more 'matured' than the 6 Ledaig I had recently but I liked that for its youth and (to use a Ralfyism) singularity. I find the 8 decent but the smoke/sweet ratio is too much to the latter for me.

I think I'll take @Robert99 's advice and shelve this for a few months and see what happens.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

Hey, did you guys consider in your discussion of the shortcomings of the current batch of Lagavulin 8 yo that there is a reason why casks are chosen for the younger whiskies? That the routine procedure of distillers is to monitor the casks and dump first the casks which they consider will not continue to mature well? Which is to say, the casks that will go into Lagavulin 8 yo will likely be casks which the distillers consider to be unfit to age further and become Lagavulin 12 yo or Lagavulin 16 yo.

I think that a Lagavulin 8 yo at 48% ABV is a very good idea. I am guessing, though, that a later batch may be liked more than is this batch. After all, if Bruichladdich Octomore can delight after 5 years of aging, you know damned well that Lagavulin can too.

11 months ago 3Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@Robert99, for me, the QC is too heavy, woody, and sweet—without enough peaty pizzazz to carry that load. It's OK. I'd score it around an 81+. I was whiskyless (the horror!) and found it was the only option at the liquor store, I'd buy it and be satisfied.

I really find it very much in the same style as the 10 CS, which I adore. That makes my disappointment a little counterintuitive, but I think the QC just comes across as a significantly less-good version of the 10 CS, and the comparison just makes the shortcomings all the more noticeable. Like back in the height of my Led Zeppelin fandom, someone gave me Woflmother to listen to. It was OK, but it was no Led Zeppelin!

11 months ago 3Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@MadSingleMalt Your Zeppelin/Wolfmother analogy is apt. I've often said that the QC is a slightly "underdone" 10 year old. Sure QC has a higher ABV%, but that doesn't make up for flavours that aren't fully developed, imho. Also, I feel as though older bottlings of QC contained more aged stock than current ones, but that's pure speculation. My memory could be playing tricks on me. The last QC I tasted was just smoke and barley sweetness. I couldn't detect any of the nice pear/vanilla notes that I typically find "under" all the smoke and iodine of the 10.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@Victor, I smell what you're steppin' in there with the cask selection, but at this point we're wading into a double-dose of speculation. (1) What are the casks like? And (2) how are they picking the casks to make each product?

And that sounds like fun speculation, but let's call a spade a spade. relaxed

I'm willing to sign on to your theory, though. It makes perfect sense to me that existence of a cheaper & younger product gives the whisky maker a place to dump the less-good casks, very potentially to the benefit of the older whiskies they make. I've recently expressed the same speculation about Laphroaig Select. And as long as we're speculating, let's name Ardbeg An Oa to the list of dumping grounds too.


I'll wade into waters you know better than I to make an analogy. Isn't this was bourbon makers do with the various brands? They have, say, one cheap label they can dump their crappy barrels into, and then other more prestigious labels for which they save the choice barrels? As much as a I find the whole world of bourbon brands to be a confusing mess, I can certainly appreciate the soundness of the strategy.

11 months ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

Yeah, @RianC—I suppose it depends on the pond! For example, we could do a lot worse than Loch Uigeadail.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@MadSingleMalt, yes, one of the primary skills of all whisk(e)y makers is the requirement to decide on the sell by, really dump by, date for each cask. Each cask is regularly periodically evaluated and the primary question to be answered each time is "Will more time in this cask make the whisky better or worse?" If the latter is true, i.e. the wood is starting to show signs of giving off undesirable flavours into the whisky, then the whisky has to be dumped very soon.

Casks of Lagavulin that can continue to improve for 16 years or more will (usually) be left to age for 16 years or more. Casks of Lagavulin which are great at 12 years old, but may deteriourate beyond that time, are dumped at 12 years. Casks that won't make it happily to 12 yo, 16 yo, or older whisky will be dumped sooner.

They have to sell all of those barrels, if only to blend into blended Scotch.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@Victor From what I have been given to understand, essentially all Lagavulin production remains as a single malt.

11 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC commented

@MadSingleMalt - I'd want to filter it first - it would no doubt be as black as the ace of spades wink

11 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Nozinan, I'll treat you to some White Horse Blended Scotch next time you are in the mood for standard inexpensive blended Scotch.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Victor Is it still available and does it still have a Lagavulin component? It was very good back in the day but I haven't seen it for years, probably decades.

11 months ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

We're kinda splitting hairs here, but besides being sold off for blends, another fate that can befall a poor cask—Lagavulin or otherwise—is to be sold off to the bottlers of mystery malts.

Among the whiskies often rumored (yes, rumored) to be Lagavulin are "Jack Wiebers Classic of Islay," "Cadenhead's Islay Classic," and "Finlaggan."

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@BlueNote, oh yes, there is still lots of NAS White Horse out there. There is also a White Horse 12 yo which is mostly limited to Japan. White Horse is definitely Lagavulin based. Try before you buy. Not a bottle I am likely to replace.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@MadSingleMalt Haven't had the 40% version, but I thought the cask strength Finlaggan was very good.

11 months ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@BlueNote, I never had either version. Didn't those use to be one of the treasures to be found at West Coast Trader Joe's stores? Where did you get yours?

Here in Whiskonsin, Trader Joe's carries only Islay Storm, which rises to the level of "fine" only when you add "...for a $20 Islay single malt." Better than McClellend's, though.

11 months ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@MadSingleMalt They carried it here at the government liquor stores for a couple of years about 5 years ago. Now they only have the 40% version which I have avoided. I tried the Ileach 40% once and put it in the same league as McLellands.

11 months ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@BlueNote, oh yeah—the Ileach! I've had a cask-strength bottle of that in my stash for years now and I always forget about it. One of these days, one of these days. I hope it's much better than the 40% version you had. Yowza.

11 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@MadSingleMalt The Ileach CS is not bad for a one trick pony. It's one of those I'm glad I tried but wish I could have bought a 250 cc bottle of.

11 months ago 1Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC commented

Having a wee nip after leaving it a month. Perhaps a little more integrated and I'd say I'm enjoying this a touch more.

I'm curious about the JD note I picked up in the review and so had a sniff side by side, as I have an open JD single barrel to compare to. I see what I mean but they are, clearly, very different - it's the sweetness of the Laga compared to some similar malts that gave me that impression, I think. That and the banana note that is definitely in both.

What is very odd, and shows me just how experientially bizarre our sense of smell can be, is that going to the JD after the Laga I'm getting a huge whiff of coconut - not something I've ever got in JD before!

10 months ago 1Who liked this?

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