Lagavulin Distillers Edition: a 1995-2000 vertical tasting

Lagavulin Distillers Edition

Some time ago I bought a Lagavulin Distillers Edition tasting set from The Whisky Exchange. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try five subsequent Distillers Editions from Lagavulin head-to-headk, starting with the 1995 vintage (the one bottled in 2013, there was already a 1995 in 2011) and leading up to the 2000 vintage bottled in 2016.

As you know Diageo’s Distillers Editions are always finished or double matured in sherry casks, in this case Pedro Ximénez.

A quick look at Whiskybase tells us the general appreciation for these Lagavulins shows a clear downward trend, from an average score of 90.16 for the 1995 vintage to 86.61 for the 2000 edition.


It’s good to understand that comparative tasting notes tend to focus (and may exaggerate) the differences. The main elements are always the same (smoke, dark fruits, maritime notes). So when I write ‘fruity’ this may disappoint you as a Lagavulin is never a very fruity whisky, it’s simply fruity by comparison.



Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1995/2013Lagavulin 1995 ‘Distillers Edition’
(43%, OB 2013, lgv. 4/501)

Nose: a rather farmy edition, with hints of manure, a little tar and deep soot. Smoked paprika. A lot of cigar notes and pipe tobacco, more than in other editions and I quite like that.

Mouth: earthy and fairly savoury, nicely combining with a light sweetness of dark chocolate. Pinches of salt and black pepper. Coffee.

Mouth: long, smoky and ashy, with coffee again.

In the first minutes after pouring the samples, I thought the 1995 would be the best edition. In the end I prefer the 1997, but in terms of deep smoke and ‘old-style’ sherry notes, this can’t be beaten.

Score: 90/100




Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1997/2013Lagavulin 1997 ‘Distillers Edition’
(43%, OB 2013, lgv. 4/502)

Nose: powerful smoke and hints of pepper. A leathery dryness as well as orange peel, even a whiff of smoked pineapple. Smoked almonds. More maritime notes too. Quite punchy and bright, less deep than the 1995.

Mouth: slightly sweeter, hints of dark maple syrup and blackberries. Also Lapsang Souchong tea and herbal notes. Mint, liquorice. Smoked fish. Complexity is high, this is simply very good.

Finish: long, tarry, with a nice chocolate and mint combo.

So this one wins, mainly because of the perfect balance between smoke, sweetness and maritime freshness, which I also find an essential characteristic of Lagavulin (sometimes a bit subdued in the Distillers Editions).

Score: 91/100



Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1998/2014Lagavulin 1998 ‘Distillers Edition’
(43%, OB 2014, lgv. 4/503)

Nose: a slightly drier profile, with smoke, herbal tea and tobacco. This one shares the maritime side with the 1997. Rather fresh, less typical for a Distillers Edition because it has less sweet sherry influence.

Mouth: lots of oranges notes here. Fresh mint, orange peel, ashes on the beach. Herbal tea. You can sense an increased feeling of wood already.

Finish: long, fresh, on crushed black peppercorns, ashes, tobacco and marmalade.

A drier nose and a fruitier profile on the palate, we’re definitely not against that. We may be splitting hairs here, this is very good but just slightly below its predecessor. It’s closer to the 16 Years as well, again not a bad thing but less typically DE in my opinion. Still available from TWE.

Score: 88/100




Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1999/2015Lagavulin 1999 ‘Distillers Edition’
(43%, OB 2015, lgv. 4/504)

Nose: the smokiness is highly subdued here, in fact in a certain line-up I could hardly pick it up. More on toffee and raisins this time. Blood oranges, even honey. Just not very talkative.

Mouth: sweet, mild and easy again, almost creamy. Apricots and smoked lemons, then more ashes. More vanilla too, almonds, milk chocolate.

Finish: shorter, sweet and smoky. Soft nutty notes and pepper.

The sweetest of the lot, after all PX is very sweet. Slightly more modern perhaps, more engineered, rapidly seasoned casks? Whatever the reason, it immediately stood out as the weakest, most vague expression in this line-up. It is clearly less complex, less smoky and less balanced.

Score: 86/100



Lagavulin Distillers Edition 2000/2016Lagavulin 2000 ‘Distillers Edition’
(43%, OB 2016, lgv. 4/505)

Nose: a lot of mentholated notes here, but also quite a big fruitiness. Oranges and prunes. Medium smoke with hints of pencil shavings and freshly sawn wood. Overall more woody.

Mouth: more oak-driven. Chocolate and salty notes but the rest is overtaken by wood spices and a general feeling of mentholated oak. Cofveve beans… The least complex.

Finish: medium, with prunes and oak.

Here as well we get more active wood, younger casks maybe. I don’t mind, especially since the balance is better than in the 1999. Less convincing than the first releases though. Things used to be better indeed.

Score: 86/100