February 19, 2017

A Genuine Smoky Beast Whisky Review! Lagavulin 8-Year

Hello beasties,

Today I have the luxury or writing a bona fide whisky review. I know these have been few and far between this year. I, along with my partner Ben and the wife, have been putting more time into whisky than ever before. And I want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported Beast Masters Club. It's a real labor of love, and it's really starting to take off. In the next few months we've got three private barrels coming out (WhistlePig, Elijah Craig, and Four Roses) and some amazing interviews including WhistlePig master distiller & all-around whiskey legend Dave Pickerell leading a tasting for us in March. Anyway thanks to everyone who has joined the club, sent amazing emails and social media posts, and showed up at our events. It's been amazing meeting so many of the people that I only knew online as readers of this blog and fellow whiskey fanatics.

Anyway, on to the matter at hand, one legitimate, non-podcast format, review! For the President's Weekend, the family headed up to the Berkshires  for a long overdue quiet several days of fires, Netflix cartoons, and of course a little nip before bedtime. I went to a random liquor store near the Stop&Shop, and lo-and-behold they had an awesome selection. I saw a bottle that I've been meaning to try, the Lagavulin 200th Anniversary 8-year sitting there for under $60 and couldn't say no. So now by the fire I'm popping it open and enjoying some warm peat on a cold night. (sure it's 60 degrees in Manhattan, but it's still in the 30's up here!).

So what do we know? We know Lagavulin was founded in 1816 and for its 200th anniversary they released a few special bottlings. One is the 25 year old which is frankly too expensive to casually pop, President's weekend or not. The other is this interesting 8-year. We've seen it cost more than the 16 year and sometimes less, so let's say it's about the same price. It is offered at a higher proof, 48% instead of Lag16's 43%, so 10 additional proof points at 96.

It comes in a very tasteful white box.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  If I nosed this blind I would not guess Lagavulin. Islay for sure, but probably I would have said Caol Ila, or wait...  maybe... Kilchoman.  Yes that's probably what I'd guess. Which totally makes sense since they're releasing very high quality younger malts. The nose has a lot of smoke, but not quite the warm smoldering campfire rocks smoke you get from older Lag. This is a more raw, slightly hot and spirit-forward and very peaty smoke. While the smoke is more in your face than what we typically think of with Lag, there are other interesting flavors that are much more prominent as well. Granny smith apples, white chocolate, citrus candies. Yes, pretty much exactly the flavors I usually pick out in Kilchoman. Funny that.

Palate: I will say in the mouthfeel department that it has a nice oiliness going on that's not as apparent in the 16. It's a bit thicker and more full on the tongue. That's kind of where the compliments end. The taste is just thinner, hotter, and not quite as complex as the 16. It's got some of the same components as the nose. White chocolate, lots of bright peat, little wood, citrus, and maybe some spice like cinnamon and red pepper flakes.

Finish: The finish is where this differs most dramatically from most of the OB Lagavulin that we've tried. It's sort of thin and hot and a little bitter. Very similar to what you get from most of the off-the-shelf Islays these days like a Caol Ila or one of the NAS Ardbegs.


Look I love me some Lag. It's my first and still favorite malt. This is still a really nice whisky. If you collect Lag, obviously you're going to score a bottle or two. The box is lovely. But it you're a malt drinker shopping on a budget, it's hard to see the allure here. Getting something twice as old in the standard 16 year bottling, with a little more sherry (sure and some E150 coloring too) is just a better deal and a tastier whiskey. Granted, sitting here by the fire drinking out of a ridiculously oversized snifter, and letting the peat smoke mingle with the birch I'm burning doesn't suck. And I don't mean to sound like a dick. I love that they put out higher proof stuff, love that they aren't afraid of a younger age statement, and still love me some Lag. But there's nothing "do-not-miss" about this one if you're keeping score.

Until next time.  Cheers/Steve

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