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Anyone who knows me, even those who don't like whisky, are aware of my slightly irrational love for Lagavulin. So I'll try to be objective, but you've been warned. Thanks to @Nozinan for the reviewed sample.
Lagavulin 8, 200th Anniversary Edition. Bottled at 48% ABV. The bottle whence came the sample was opened November 17, 2016, gassed after each use, decanted into a smaller bottle May 20, 2017, and the sample poured for me on April 18, 2018. There seems to be mixed information on added colour and chill-filtration. There are no statements about it on the box, but the 48% ABV usually means a whisky hasn't been chill-filtered and Ralfy seems convinced that this is bottled at natural colour. I can neither confirm nor deny one way or the other, and I'm too lazy to Google it.
- Nose (undiluted): tarry ropes, wood smoke and brine, quite vegetal (seaweed), surprisingly fruity with lemons and limes coming through, a hint of caramelized sugar with a bit of eucalyptus at the tail end. Very pleasant nose. Much brighter than the 12 or 16 year bottlings.
- Palate (undiluted): richer than expected, not at all "hot" for 48% ABV, toffee leads the way but is bowled over by peat smoke, then black pepper with some fruity notes (peaches and apricots) appear, developing cereal notes (barley) near the end.
- Finish: fairly long, candied ginger and floral honey at first, then a bit sour and fruity, green apples, green (white) grapes and charred lemons, with the wood smoke returning and lingering. Fantastic.
With water added the nose initially becomes brighter. Iodine, brine, and the charred lemons take the lead. The smoke is still there and it doesn't yield. The nose develops more sweetness with water, and the eucalyptus all but disappears. Ten minutes after adding water, a sweetened black tea aroma is present. Water doesn't negatively affect the arrival on the palate either, but it does bring the pepper notes to the forefront. A bit of hot and sweet together. The order of flavours on the finish changes a bit with water added. Campfire ash lead the way, but is overtaken by peaches and apricots drizzled with honey. Smoky, fruity and sweet. An absolute treat with or without water.
There isn't a lot of "low end depth" to this whisky. It is smoky, but also very bright, sweet, and fruity, whereas Laphroaig Quarter Cask has a much deeper flavour but lacks the high end brightness of Lagavulin 8. I think an equal mix of the two might make the perfect young Islay whisky, yet Lagavulin 8 remains fantastic on its own.
I need to get a bottle of this stuff.