August 31, 2015

First Loves & Summer Flings - Lagavulin 18-Year Distiller's Edition

First Love

Lagavulin - still our one true love. It was some years ago now that our torrid affair began. We saw you smoking at the far end of the bar. Your deceitfully smooth cologne beckoning us to come chat you up. That irresistible blend of maturity and strength. No matter how we may stray, we'll always return to our first flame.

We thought we had tried the 2013 Distiller's Edition. It was good.  They're all good. It was the first year they moved to the green labels. We had some fun with that. A little hokey maybe but the juice was as good as ever. 

Lag 101

For the uninitiated, Lagavulin 16 Year is about as good as malt whisky gets. It's a peat fire mellowed by the better of two decades in bourbon and sherry casks. Super warm, smoky, rich, and so incredibly balanced and smooth. A staple of our whisky experience if there ever was one.  

Every year around Christmas, Diageo releases two special release Lagavulin bottlings. The unsherried 12-year cask strength is a monster. You have to open it and let it sit in the bottle for a month or two to really appreciate it. They also do a bottle for their Distiller's Edition collection (along with Talisker, Oban, and some others). The Distiller's release is double matured, first in the standard bourbon & sherry, and then in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The rich sweet fortified wine in those PX casks does wonderful things to Lagavulin. It's not necessarily better than the 16 (which might be impossible) but it's a mellower, fruitier, and marvelous variation on the theme.  

The only mildly uninspiring thing about the Distiller's Edition is that while is technically "double matured", it's still 16 years old just like the standard release. This means that presumably they pull barrels early (after 14 years) and rebarrel them in the PX casks. This is cool and all, but wouldn't it be even COOLER if they let it finish its standard 16 year aging process and then did the "double maturation"?? 

Summer Fling

When the good folks at The Whisky Exchange broke out their Summer Whisky Offer (buy one, save 15 pounds on the second), it was too much to resist doing some impulse shopping. We'd been lusting after their new Laphroaig Signatory release.  Just look at that cask strength sherry cask beauty.  What can you do but buy one (and by that we mean 2!)?  

Window Shopping

Now of course if you're going to pay to ship bottles over from the UK, you may as well get the most for those freight dollars, so we dutifully browsed the incredible selection at TWE for a few more choice bottles. It's easy to get lost window shopping in their incredible Old & Rare department.  But we weren't going that crazy. Still have a kid to get through college and all that...

Shuffling through the rest of the Islay section, something else caught our eye. It looked like a Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 2013, but without the green label that was on our bottle.

On closer inspection we noticed something else strange about this bottle.  That's right, it's an 18-year. Distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2013!

Could it be true? The corporate lords of Diageo had heard our humble plea and done a full 16 year run of Lagavulin followed by 2-year PX maturation? It looked that way, and it was also too good to pass up.

It turns out that this was exactly the case. There was a UK only special release of 2013 Distiller's Edition that was bottle at 18 years. Oh yeah!! A few weeks later a very auspicious package arrived on our door with a bunch of delicious looking international mail stamps. We saved this little treasure for a long overdue vacation, and happen to be enjoying it at the beach as we speak.  So without further ado, the Lagavulin 18-Year Distiller's Edition.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Beautiful subdued smoke with a double dose of plum jam, raisins, bananas Foster, pink peppercorns, honeyed peat.

Palate: Sweet on the palate, with the smoke saving itself for the encore. The same as above, adding little nibbles of white chocolate, florals (heather? lavender?), and white grapes.

Finish: The smoothest Lagavulin we've ever had, still retaining that smoky peaty quality and all the things we love about it, but very extremely smooth. IT'S NICE.


It's good. It's really friggin good. Maybe our only crazier fantasy would be for them to release this same bottle at 100 proof. But there's no way Diageo would be listening and make that happen, could they???? ;) Anyway it is that good, but can we condone you seeking this one out, buying it internationally, and paying all the shipping and customs charges to get it back to the US?  YES!  Yes we can. Especially with TWE's special where it's only going to run an extra 30 or 40 bucks. We can absolutely condone this type of behavior on your part. When else are you going to get your hands on an 18 year Lag? If you're feeling generous, while you're there pick up this little Talisker for us :).

Hope you're having a great summer! What are you drinking on your vacation?  If you're a beast fan, please take a moment to FOLLOW US ON TWITTER!  Cheers!  /SB


  1. oh yes...sounds so nice...and to only hope for the Talisker

    1. haha indeed! come up to NYC alan and we'll save you a taste!!

  2. Could not resist the discount, especially because of the enthusiastic comments! Cheers!!

    1. Don't think you'll be disappointed, Bram. A delightful dram!