Distillery/Brand: Lagavulin | Region: Islay | ABV: 54.4% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90
I remember my first Lagavulin and, yes, it was the 16; just like everyone else. Unlike most first-timers who can get dissuaded by the ashy peat and smoke my palate actually cut through that and went to the delicate sweetness that nestled underneath.
It was one of the first whiskies that I had reviewed (quite a cringe-worthy review if you ask me) but at least I knew a good whisky when I saw one. Even back then.
Since then, I am quite happy to report, that I have yet to be disappointed by a Lagavulin. They don’t release a million expressions a year, instead, choosing to focus on what they do best.
One of the standard expressions they churn out now is the 12 year old cask strength which they’ve been releasing every year for the last 13 years. Each edition is a different strength and with minor variances in taste.
What I’ve done for this particular tasting is, for the very first time, pair a dark chocolate with the whisky and report on the how the palate is influenced.
The 2014 bottling has been vatted from re-fill American Oak from spirit distilled in 2001 and 2002. My sample is from a previously opened bottle (almost full) and served at a cask strength of 54.4%
Nose: Oysters. Sharp lime. Understated ash. Apples. Apricot. Jute bag. Melon rind. White pepper. Gets sootier as you let it breathe. Touch of water will open it up a bit. Becomes slightly sweeter, though, not by much. Becomes drier. Almost cardboard dry. Good nose. And I didn’t expect anything less. 23/25
Palate: Chocolate. Lime. Lemon. Pineapple. Salt. White pepper. Very intense. Ash. Smoked barbeque. Quite savory. Touch bitter. With water it’s a gentler dram. Less spice. Quite chewy. 22/25
Finish: Long. Oily. Touch of oak. Grass. Almost mentholated. Leaves the mouth numb, though. With water is much nicer with more accentuated flavors. 23/25
For my chocolate pairing experiment I decided to go with 70% Lindt. A small piece to coat my mouth before tasting the spirit.
Tasting notes with chocolate:
Palate: Very interesting. Creatives a protective coating and cuts the spice. Brings out more fruit. Makes it seem full-bodied. I definitely prefer it after a small piece of dark chocolate.
Finish: The finish sees the most dramatic difference after the introduction of chocolate. Lots of mocha. Java. Espresso. Cocoa beans. Cinnamon. Lovely.
Overall Comments: True to it’s range it is a big and bold whisky. It doesn’t promise layer upon layer of complex flavors but what it has are on point. Very tasty dram. Made even more tasty with a bit of bitter dark chocolate.
I had been meaning to put two hard hitters against each other for a while now but never got around to doing it. But tonight I had the house all to my self and figured I had no excuses.
For this epic heads up battle I chose two of my favorite cask strength whiskies from Islay: The Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 005 and the Lagavulin 12 – 2012.
Individually they both score very high on my scale but I had never had them side to side so I never really knew which one I liked better.
Lagavulin 12 . 2012 / 56.1%
Nose: Peat butter. Smoke. Red apples. Sour (like tamarind). Lots of greens. Sharp acid like lemon citrus. Ash
Palate: Fiery peppers. Apricot. Pineapple sponge cake. Peat. Smoke. Fresh greens. Cucumber.
Finish: Long. Mint. Spice.
Nose: 22 | Palate: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90
Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 005 / 57.2%
Nose: Sweet. Honey. Jam. Maple. Cardboard. Red sweets. Coca Cola. Cherry licorice. Caramel. Hint of peat. Iodine.
Palate: Cherries. Black pepper. Bitter chocolate. Peat. All spice. Burnt jam. Oak.
Finish: Long. Spicy. Dark chocolate. Iodine.
Nose: 23 | Palate: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92
So here’s the verdict.
While the Lagavulin 12 is a quality dram the Laphroaig just manages to edge past in the nose and the overall balance of the dram. It is just that much more flavorful with hints of exotic.
The Lagavulin is raw power while the Laphroaig much easier to drink even though it’s at a higher ABV. And for me that tips the scales in it’s balance.
Definitely a very enjoyable match up!