Islay Whisky Classics No.19 – Lagavulin Jazz Festival Release

For a few years now on Islay over a weekend in September , the Isle has been hosting a Jazz Festival , originally sponsored by Black Bottle , Lagavulin took over the reins a couple of years ago . We were on the Isle while the 2011 Jazz Festival was going on and managed to pick up one of the special bottlings . Iain McArthur selected a 1993 Bodega Sherry cask (No.355 , distilled 08/02/93 ) for the occasion  .

Lagavulin Jazz Festival

The colour of Autumn russet leaves , the initial nose is of dying embers in a fire , then peated sherry and finally peat smoke , it is a totally different nose to anything i’ve tried that Lagavulin have bottled . The palate is quite sweet at first , then the Lagavulin smoke emerges  . The sherry and the spirit are very well balanced , neither over-powering , it does actually remind me more of it’s easterly next door neighbour than a Lagavulin . The finish is medium , sweet and smoky . A very nice and unusual Laga – i can’t remember ever having a straight sherry matured Laga…..  apart from in Iains warehouse tasting  !

Islay Whisky Classics No.18 – Lagavulin Distillery Only

Both the Diageo Distilleries on Islay did a release that was only available over the counter at the distillery , both are Non-age statement (NAS) whiskies , Lagavulins was bottled in 2010 from the same spirit that goes into the Distillers Edition (Double matured in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks) but had been left to mature for extra years .

Lagavulin Distillery Only

This one’s bottled at 52.5% abv and it’s all the better for the extra strength and extra time in the cask . Polished Amber in colour , the nose is a beautifully smoked sweet sherry , the sweetness seems to dominate after a time , loads of confectioners sugar but luckily the smoky sherry keeps fighting back . The Palate is a lovely mixture of smoke , sherry and peat , another silky smooth dram with a kick at the end. The finish is long , spicy , smoky and really chewy . A nicely balanced and complex malt , definitely better than the Distillers Edition !

Islay Whisky Classics No.17 – Lagavulin Distillers Edition (1984)

When the concept of the original 6 “Classic Malts” was born it was decided to do a “Double Matured” version of each , effectively a version finished off in a different , unusual cask , Lagavulin was finished off in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks (a sweet sherry) .

Lagavulin Distillers Edition

Another Lagavulin bottled at 43% abv , this one is the colour of Polished Amber . The nose is Sweet Sherry , bags of smoke , Confectioner Sugar , dried fruits and Christmas Cake , quite laid back in the glass . Dry on the palate at first , not the “Fire” of the 16yo , more relaxed with the sweet sherry , glides across the tongue beautifully . The finish is long , sweet sherry , smoke and iodine . Wouldn’t say it is my favourite Lagavulin  but a worthy dram .

Islay Whisky Classics No.16 – Lagavulin 16yo

Lagavulin is one of the most popular Islay Whiskies , many moons ago it was available as a 12yo standard but when Lagavulin became part of the “Classic Malts” it was upped to a 16yo , it is still available from time to time as a 12yo Cask strength Limited Edition release . 

Lagavulin 16yo

Bottled at 43% abv , this is a bright , orange marmalade in colour , the nose is really smoky to start with then the peat follows in and sherry . The palate is a burning peat fire , loads of smoke , peat and iodine . Really long with sweet Smoke on the finish . More of a smoke monster than the peat monsters that the South Shore is famous for . A cracking dram ! 

Islay Whisky Classics No.15 – Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 002

In Early 2009 Laphroaig changed their policy with the 10yo Cask Strength , gone was the standard abv and in came small batches with different abv’s for each batch……

Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 002

Batch 002 was bottled in January 2010 at 58.3% abv , almost Golden Syrup in colour , the nose is really (and i mean really ) medicinal , vegetal , quite farm yardy , sea shore , potent i think is the word and really nice ! The palate is…… pungent , like Laphroaig of old , medicinal , iodiney , peaty , sweet  and nettles……. Bloody hell that is good ! The finish is long , medicinal , peaty and creamy .

This is bloody good stuff , takes me back to the 80’s , a cracking dram ! I do own Batches 001 and 003 , they are un-opened but i have tried them in a bar and they do not disappoint ! Probably the best bang for bucks Laphroaigs on the market !  

Islay Whisky Classics No.14 – Laphroaig Quarter Cask

There was a time when there was a lot of discussion going on about Laphroaig not being as Strong (pungent) as it used to be , i was on the side of the “it isn’t”  , i first had Laphroaig back in 1984 and it was like nothing on this planet…… well maybe hospital antiseptic ! Even my wife had noticed it had lost something , when we were first going out in the early 90’s she knew from the other side of the bar i’d bought a Laphroaig , she didn’t like it . By 2006 she was drinking the stuff not knowing it was a Laphroaig ! This release started the come back in my eyes for Laphroaig……

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

After spending some time in normal casks , this spirit is then moved into smaller “Quarter Casks” for further maturation before bottling at a higher abv of 48%  . Polished Gold in colour , the initial nose is very medicinal , seaweedy / iodine , damp moss and my old friend the nettle ! There’s a creaminess hiding in there as well , it does take a little while to open up . The palate is very vegetal , again there’s a sweetness to it , it’s actually quite short over the palate , luckily there’s a long , medicinal finish with Highland Toffee and you know what….. 

A thoroughly enjoyable Laphroaig that re-ignited my interest in this distillery , as a well known game show host said “super,great,smashing” !

Islaystudios’s Blog

If like us you happen to miss Islay in between visits we start looking at other peoples accounts and blogs to see what’s happening on our favourite Isle , one that we regularly visit is Mark Unsworths Islaystudios’s Blog . Mark has some stunning photos of Islay on it and it usually makes us miss the place even more !

His Blog is at , well worth the Visit ! 

Islay Whisky Classics No.13 – Laphroaig 18yo

I was a bit wary of this one because i wasn’t a huge fan of the old 15yo which this one replaced , i actually got to try it when a former Laphroaig employee bought me one as a Birthday dram in September 2011 . When i got my FOL Birthday discount i bought a bottle with it……

Laphroaig 18yo

Bright gold in colour and bottled at 48% abv (to whom it may concern , can we have the 10yo at 48% as well please ?) , as with all Laphroaigs there’s a lovely oiliness in the glass ,   there’s more of an earthiness to this on the nose . relaxed peat , a farm yard with nettles (where the hell do i keep getting nettles from in Laphroaigs ?) and right at the end a whiff of iodine . The palate is wonderful , peat , iodine , heavily medicinal ,  the taste of the air after a storm on an Islay shoreline , a tremendous mouthfeel , boy is this good ! The finish is long , medicinal and fudgy sweet .

I think this is possibly my favourite Laphroaig , has everything you expect of Laphroaig , keeps giving after it’s gone and is so bloody satisfying !

Islay Whisky Classics No.12 – Laphroaig 10yo

This is perhaps the most famous Islay Single Malt Whisky , it certainly was the first one i ever saw back in 1984 . Famous for people either loving it of loathing it , i loved it when i first tried it , fell out with it later on when it seemed to lose something but have fallen back in love with it recently……. 

Laphroaig 10yo

Bottled at 40% – i don’t know why they haven’t upped the abv in line with most of their competitors , would be nice to have it at 46% – and a bright gold colour in the glass , the nose is heavy on the medicinal , it’s a bit like standing on a rugged shore on the south of Islay , heavy sea air with sea weed , also there is a strong touch of farm yard and nettles , finally a smokiness appears . The palate is a heady peatiness with iodine , a nice sweetness to it , almost creamy fudge , silky smooth across the entire palate until the back of the throat when the peatiness and a brittle toffeeness bite in . The finish is long and medicinal .

Laphroaig 10yo back to it’s best , a really enjoyable dram…… if you like this kind of thing…..

Islay Whisky Classics No.11 – Ardbeg 1976 Cask 2394

Back in the annals of time i joined the Ardbeg Committee , i was just over the 1000th  member , late 2000 an envelope came through the door offering us the chance to buy a bottle only available to committee members . There was a choice of two bottles from single casks , both from 1976 both sherry butts . This being the good ol’ days we ‘posted’ ( for you computer geeks that’s when you put something in an envelope , sticking a stamp on it and posting it in a funny red pillar box) it , we now had to wait and see if we were lucky enough to get one and it usually took 30 days – i know , some of you would be suicidal by that time but that was half the fun , when we didn’t expect to get things yesterday ! 

Ardbeg 1976 Cask 2394

The choice of casks were from what was to become the legendary 239x series , I went for cask 2394 rather than 2392 , Distilled on the 24th November 1976 , it was bottled on the 18th July 2000 at 53.1% abv . A beautiful dark amber in colour , the nose is very fresh and open , sherry hits you first then the dried fruit – currants , sultanas ,cherries – a marzipan sweetness and a hint of peat smoke . There’s also a hint of smoky bacon and banana . The palate is very smooth , quite powerful as well , behind the initial sherry is the creamy coffee of so many other begs , there’s also humbugs ( minty ) and a peppery peatiness . The finish is just huge and long , again humbugs with pepper and a sweetness .

This is a colossus of an Ardbeg , a taster of good things to come , it doesn’t half bring back the memories of simpler times when getting a Committee bottling was great fun , oh for the Good old days !