05 Dec 2012
Lagavulin 21 years (2007)
Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in Lagavulin
This Lagavulin 21 years old is rather legendary. It was released in September 2007 at around € 185 and now fetches up to € 700 in auctions.
It was said to be the last full European Sherry Oak Lagavulin for many years to come, but that turned out to be marketing blah. There have been at least a Lagavulin 1995/2008 for Friends of Classic Malts and a Lagavulin 1994/2010 Feis Ile that were also sherry matured, and this year a new sherry oak Lagavulin 21 years appeared, which is said to be fully sherry matured as well although the label says it’s sherry finished.
Back to the 2007 edition. At first, reviews called this an out-of-this-world bottling, but afterwards some critical remarks popped up about the presence of sulphur in this release (see here – or here if you understand Dutch).
I own a couple of bottles (one of the benefits of living in Spain at that time, where nobody seems to read Whiskyfun) and one of them has been open since 2008. I wrote some notes back then, but never published them because I had mixed feelings and switched opinions regularly. Anyway my original notes mentioned this:
Let’s be clear about it: when I pour a glass from my bottle (n°4369), I immediately get some sulphury notes. I really do. Not rotten eggs but not “innocent” matchsticks either. Kind of a farmy smell, cooked meat, something rubbery as well. I can only describe it as sulphury although it may well be a combination of other things. The good thing is: it disappears after a while in the glass. Or my nose gets used to it and starts to focus on the other flavours. In the end it doesn’t set me off and I think it adds up to the overall power and complexity (now is that a happy end or what…?).
I had it at 93 points, even with the rubbery side. Now, with the launch of the new Lagavulin 21 years (2012 edition), I decided to revisit it, write new notes, and directly compare it to the new version.
Lagavulin 21 yo 1985 (56,5%, OB 2007, first fill sherry, 6642 btl.)
Nose: an awesome whirlpool of flavours: sweet peat, the burnt top of a crème brûlée, toffee, natural caramel, tar, furniture wax, roasted almonds, coffee beans, old books, figs, chocolate, tobacco, leather, toasted bread, horse stable, camphor, iodine… It’s rather endless. Starts “dark” but it shows some fresher lemon and eucalyptus after some time. Hints of red fruits. Great balance between the distinctively peated Lagavulin character and the sherry influence. If you can stand a slight rubberiness that’s not uncommon for heavily sherried peated whiskies, this is rather stunning. Big complexity anyway. Mouth: very powerful, thick mouth-feel. Starting dry and sherried but getting more tarry and rather oily. Dark chocolate. Roasted coffee beans. Dry walnuts. Hints of kumquat, but not that many fruits. Slightly brutal, like a sherried Port Charlotte can be. Less complex than the nose, but still very rewarding. Honey. Pepper. Cigar leaves. Salty edge towards the end. Liquorice. Finish: dark and long, on sesame oil, camphor, peat smoke and a little salt and leather.
No worries: this is an excellent Lagavulin. It deserves a lot of praise, even with the rubbery notes that in the end don’t bother me. It’s the classic Lagavulin elements fighting with the sherry, with no clear winner in the end. Tomorrow we’ll post the other Lagavulin 21 years – quite a different story.
ps/ Just a side note: rubbery notes like these come and go sometimes, especially if you try the same bottle over the course of several years. When I first opened the bottle, I didn’t have any rubber, I only started to notice it later on. And now after four years in an open bottle, it seems to have diminished a lot again. Must be some kind of reaction with the air.