January 1, 2013

Review: Lagavulin "Double Matured" Distiller's Edition - Holy Ximenez!



Countryside Motoring
"Double Matured" is a wonderful sounding phrase.  It makes you think "old"... in a good way.  Helen Mirren and Judi Dench come to mind.  Time-honored beauties that could teach you a thing or two about the world while drinking you under the table.  We picture long drives through the British countryside in houndstooth coats under a light rain.  Conversation about the good old days when Connery was Bond, driving was 'motoring', and martinis were lunch.  Old leather and natural wood grain and faded sepia maps that lead to treasures unimaginable.

View from my Rolls convertible as I'm motoring with Helen
in the British countryside.

And Back to the Present...
News Year's Day 2013 - the Mayans were wrong, we're still here and still drinking, Judi is a badass M in a new Bond film, and Ryan Seacrest's tribute to Dick Clark has given way to an Odd Couple marathon - a perfect time to sit back, dream of the old days, and have a glass of fine whisky.  And why not continue our series on Lagavulin's Limited Edition 2012 releases?  This time we're queuing up the Lagavulin "Double Matured" Distiller's Edition.  This lovely beast has undergone a second aging process in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks.  Now the "double matured" tagline does seem somewhat misleading, since the bottle clearly notes "Distilled in 1996, Bottled in 2012" i.e. it's 16 years old just like the original.  Presumably the "double matured" just refers to a second barreling in a different type of cask.  But nonetheless we're very excited.


On Grape Smuggling & Sherry

The illustrious and mysterious
Pedro Ximenez grape.
Pedro Ximenez Sherry is a dark, mahogany colored sweet desert wine.  Robert Parker describes it as "fig, apricot, and raisins... so thick and rich that is seems to fall apart in the mouth in pieces."  It's a "varietal wine" meaning that the name comes from the specific grape.  In this case, the Pedro Ximenez (PX) grape is a white grape purported to originate from the Canary Islands before being transplanted to the Rhine Valley.  As the legend has it, the actual Pedro Ximenez was a sailor in King Charles V's navy stationed in the Spanish Netherlands.  He smuggled the grape from Rhine to Jerez, Spain in his baggage and began one of the oldest traditions in Spanish wine making.

Scottish whisky distilleries flock to PX Sherry producers in hopes of purchasing their used casks.  Aging scotch in PX casks yields a rich, sweet, dark, and mellow character to the malt.  Glenmorangie, Glendronach, BenRiach, and Laphroig have all offered a PX cask whisky at one time or another.

Expectations
The Lagavulin Distiller's Edition is bottled at 43% and is available right now from Caskers at $97.99.  (spoiler alert: skip the rest of the review, click that link and buy it before it's all gone!).  Ok, we were disappointed by the Lagavulin 12-Year Cask Strength.  It was a wild ride, fast and fiery, like an Italian supercar, but in the end left us longing for the smoother comfort of our beloved sedan.  The Lagavulin 16 has been our favorite whisky for years.  Can the Distiller's Edition compete?  Or, dare we dream, surpass The Mighty Lag as our number one dram?



Tasting Notes
Appearance:  Ok, ok we know that purists will tell you not to even take notice of the color of a whisky, since even <gasp> The Mighty Lag may contain coloring agents like caramel.  There is a lot of hot debate on this topic with people even resorting to translating Swedish imports that have to be labelled for added ingredients.  And there are certainly cases where flavor doesn't match up.  But you know what, when it comes to Lagavulin, we don't buy it and we don't really care.  After all Straight Bourbon Whiskey is expressly forbidden to add coloring, and it gets plenty dark.  So why shouldn't we give our hero the benefit of the doubt?  The Lagavulin Distiller's Edition is a beautiful dark toffee color.  Next to the 16-Year, it's just a tiny shade darker in color, which would make sense given the extra sherry-barrel aging.  It's a beautiful tone, reflecting darkly in the light like a combination of Earl Grey tea and sunset.

Nose: Our first whiff is delightfully encouraging.  There is no medicinal alcohol scent at all.  The aroma is pure sweet brown sugar and orange zest.  It opens up after a few minutes into roasted almonds, cinnamon, chamomile, lemon peels, spicy cloves, and honey.  Compared to the 16-Year, the nose is noticeably more defined, with more spice and pop.  Bottom line, it smells friggin' amazing.

Body: Yes!  Finally a companion with the same unbelievable smoothness as traditional Lagavulin.  There is absolutely no burn, no wince after you take your first neat sip.  The taste is sweet, moving from a thick sugar in the middle of the tongue to a citrusy explosion on the sides of the mouth.  When it hits the back of the tongue, you discover cherries and nutmeg, and a wonderful spicy and warm flavor.

Finish: As we've come to love, the finish seems to go on for hours.  The fruits are replaced by a deep peaty smoke, oak, and - yes - sherry wine.  The smoke erases all the after-bite of the whisky.  Far from reaching for a chaser, we just sat there smiling and enjoying the lingering smoky goodness for a few minutes after our first sip.

The Review
The Lagavulin Distiller's edition gets a straight "A".  As we've come to expect from Lagavulin, it simply destroys just about every other whisky, even those that come with much higher price tags.  Everything about this magical beast is right - from the bottle to the color to the nose to the taste to the finish, this is what whisky is all about.  We're going to have to buy a second bottle, just so that we can indulge in this one without worrying that we'll run out.  Hey, life is too short not to buy this twice.  And even for folks who don't really get into expensive whisky, life is too short not to spend $100 to experience this treat.

The Head-to-Head
Drumroll please...  Ok so which is better, the 16-Year or the Distiller's Edition?  On this point, your humble narrators could not form a consensus.  Hubby prefers the Distiller's edition.  It's got more pop, more fruit, more grape and more citrus.  It's slightly lighter and vibrates higher in the head above your eyebrows.  Wifey prefers the traditional.  It lands lower, underneath your jaw.  It has less fruit and more caramel, chocolate, mocha, and toffee.   The peat smoke sits on its own, more clearly defined without the extra notes of sherry.  We both agreed on two things: 1) At around $100 versus $60 for the 16-year, we can't say that it's nearly twice as good.  2) However (a big however) both of these whiskies are well worth $100 per bottle!  (That's why its so unfair to other whiskies that the 16-year is only $60).  Honestly life is about the journey, not the destination, and getting to taste test these two beauties - even if we couldn't come to a full conclusion - makes life that much sweeter.

Happy drinking, and happy new year!  -smokybeast



18 comments :

  1. Ok now I'm dying to try it! is this going to be a permanent offer from Diageo or is it a limited run?

    Love that you guys are fanatics for The Lag! I've been dying for something new too but it's the best the best the best!!!

    Great site.

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  2. Thanks BS69! The Distiller's Editions seem to come out every year around this time and go fast! Definitely not a permanent offer. Pick one up quick!

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  3. I actually love the cask strength, but I get what you're saying about the age/maturity. Haven't tried the DE, but now I want to. You should review the 21-Year Cask Strength too.

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    1. The 21 year seems to be up over $800 a bottle now. Maybe think of us for Christmas next year :) !!!

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  4. As I am a peat lover, hoe strong is the peat taste in the distiller's version?

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    1. We'd say it's 90% the peat level of the standard 16-year. The sherry cask takes a little of the straight peat taste away and replaces it with a fruity sweet taste. If you love Lagavulin, it's worth trying without a doubt. If the Lag 16-year isn't peaty enough for you (and if so bravo my friend), try the Ardbeg http://smokybeast.blogspot.com/2013/02/smokybeast-review-ardbeg-uigeadail.html. Thanks for reading and happy drinking!

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  5. I do share your enthusiasm for the Lagavulin Distillers Edition, it's is a real treat! I picked up a bottle today, I've been waiting for a few years for them to release this again, and I was a little surprised at the prices here in Ontario (Canada) , approx $130 for the 16 year old and $150 for the distillers edition.

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    1. It's lucky you can find them in ON. I didn't see them in LCBO ... Where did you get it...may I ask?

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  6. Thanks! Here in tax Gree Livigno, Italy, the bottles cost around 50 euro only. There is also another distiller's version, 2011, distilled in 1995, for 54 euro. Is this better?

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    1. That's a great price! You should buy both and let us know which you like. We haven't had last year's distiller's edition since... last year (we're not so good at looking at Lagavulin on our bar, it tends to get drunk). From what we remember we actually preferred the 2012. The Talisker Distiller's edition on the other had is great if you can find one of the earlier ones. But we'd love to hear your thoughts if you can do a true side-by-side taste test. Thanks for reading!

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  7. Wait wait wait... where are you getting 16yr for $60?! I'm lucky if I find it under $95 here in Northern Colorado!

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    1. The internet is your friend! :)

      http://www.astorwines.com/SearchResultsSingle.aspx?search=04164&searchtype=Contains&term=Lagavulin,16,Yr,Scotch&p=2

      http://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/lagavulin-16-year-old-whisky/?srh=1

      http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=620021

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  8. Why does it smell and taste like a fresh box of band aids?

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  9. αλαλαλαλαλομ perfect smell perfect taste παοκ ολε i think the best γαμβροι μουνια γαμω τον πειραια

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Hi, i found a Lagavuiln DE 1990 Edition for $120. Should i buy it?

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  12. Yeah Victor, pick it up, sounds like a good deal!

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  13. I have tried lagavulin and it STINKS like medicine. Horrible whisky.
    Save your money. A Glenlivet is SO much better.

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