Posts Tagged With: Lagavulin

Tasting Notes: Lagavulin – 16 Years Old

Lagavulin 16

Lagavulin is widely recognised as one of the leading names in whisky throughout the globe and regularly falls within the same breath as its fellow southern Islay neighbours Laphroaig and Ardbeg. The 16 year old is the core expression of Lagavulin and has (deservedly) garnered cult status amongst whisky fans and peatheads worldwide. Each facet of the dram is distinctive and should be savoured.

ABV: 43%


M: It’s hard to describe without using its own name – its simply, big Lagavulin smoke.

R: So I get a real outdoorsy smell from this. Like a camp fire.With like a caramel-ishness.



M: Caramel sweetness and big rich, fruity flavours at first that are then instantly battered by full malty smoke and oak.

R: I find it kind of evaporates on the tongue very quickly, then fills your mouth with smoky deliciousness.


M: Brown sugar sweetness upfront and then the smoke builds and builds as it coats the throat on the way down, leaving a peppery spiciness in the smoky aftermath.

R: It’s like it’s light and delicate but simultaneously potent and powerful.


M: Amazing. It’s hard to describe as it’s just distinctly Lagavulin. Regardless of whether or not you like smoky whiskies, one encounter with this dram and you can understand why it has cult status. “Mother’s milk” as Ron Swanson would put it.

R: Final verdict, for me, it’s not an every day kind of whisky. It’s the sort of thing you need to be in the right mood for. It’s an evening in front of the fire, with dressing gowns and cigars and a leather bound book kind of drink. One other point. I had a bit of a sinus headache when I poured the glass. It’s gone now.


Lagavulin Bay

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Best Of The West Festival 2015 – Day 2

After a brilliant day’s musical and liquid entertainment on the Saturday, I managed to wake up without a single regret on the Sunday, and the weather was also as surprisingly clear as my head. There are few sights in this world that I’ve been lucky enough to witness that are as serene, calming and stunning as Loch Fyne in the sun. With that breath-taking start, and some tactical lining of the stomach, we set off to enjoy the second day of the festival to take some more Argyll-based indulgence.

Loch Fyne

Loch Fyne

Today was not a day for hanging about as the punters lined up at the whisky tent to sample the wide range of delights offered by the Loch Fyne whisky stand. First up on the roster was Laphroaig 25, largely because I could see that there was not much left. As a self-confessed peathead, this was one of the drams that I had marked down for sampling from the offset, and I was not going to miss out, so regardless of whenever lunch time was, a healthy dram was poured. The nose was quite surprising. There was the Laphroaig smell, of course, but it seemed to have been tamed by the aging process, with a sweet and salty popcorn nose that got sweeter and slightly fruitier by the taste. The finish was very smooth and the trademark fiery smoke only made a late and lingering appearance as the sweetness faded. Clearly the additional years of maturing in the barrel had taken my favourite peaty dram in a new sweet direction, but without compromise on the smoke, albeit the ferocity of the dram was contained. What a start! (8.9/10 if we’re going down the scoring route). Before heading on though… food was needed and the wonderful smells coming from the food tent was driving my appetite wild.

The food options were incredible and having opted for a filling real Mackay stovie, my wife and I sat and witnessed a couple of food demonstrations. First up was a nice young chap from local restaurant Samphire who whipped up a storm. Next was the top chef Jamie Nicholson from Loch Fyne Oysters. Whilst oysters were not served – probably a wise choice in a festival environment – we were treated to a delicious freshly prepared cod dish. [After a quick chat with him, he invited us back to try oysters at the restaurant later that week, and bless him he remembered us and even gave us a dessert on the house! Gent!] The following demonstration was some sensational Thai food cooked up fresh from local favourite Sujitra Scott. Let’s just say that I didn’t need to eat much more that day…

Food Tent

Food Tent

After a graze and gorge session, I was back to the top dram mission, and acquired the second of my three 25 year olds of the day, and that was the Bunnahabhain 25. This dram offered a lovely sherry nose and was very sweet to taste. It was like honey, without being malefluous (yep – the pretentious dictionary came out for that one). The finish was fairly quick but the sweetness left a tang in the throat. It was incredibly drinkable and worringly so with the price tag that the bottle attracts. 8.4/10

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray Castle

Before heading into a comfortable festival stupor, my wife and I took the opportunity to take the discounted castle tour. Inveraray Castle is stunning. Just look at that picture. My wife suggested that it looked like something from Downton Abbey, and sure enough, as we got into the castle’s dining room, there was a still of Dame Maggie in her period drama pomp. The castle itself is magnificently turned out, as you can imagine, with the available rooms all neatly displaying the treasures that the Dukedom and Clan Campbell had acquires over the years. What was prevalent was that the Duke and Duchess had clearly had a great influence on modernising whilst maintaining the castle, with beautiful photos of their family throughout. The display of weaponry in the castle’s atrium was more than testament to that management.



Time was pressing on though and one of the bands that I really wanted to see were due to start, so we gave each room an appropriate amount of awe and appreciation and then made it out to the gravel for some more nourishment and folk, this time presented by the Shiverin’ Sheikhs and who doesn’t like rockabilly? Good times continued.

The third dram of today’s big line up was Bowmore 25. Again, the age of the dram brought a sugary sweetness, with a light almond and smoky nose. The taste matched the nose exactly but brought an increasingly spicy note and warmth to the smoky tickle. It had a fairly mid length finish that didn’t quite fill the mouth and stood as a very well rounded dram – all the key players bring their A-game for this dram. 8.3/10

Double Dramming

Double Dramming

The penultimate dram of the day was the 2014 release of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. I’m a big fan of Lagavulin and was looking forward to tasting something different from them and this beast delivered. It had that distinctive Lagavulin coastal air and peat smoke, with a hint of sweetness. It certainly had the most ashen-tasting smoke of the Islay offerings of the day and had an underlying toffee taste and finish. It may have just been the fact that I’d been on the peat on all day, but this felt like a Lagavulin light, if such a thing could exist. As the effects of the day were making me more lyrical, my notes ended by stating that “the brakes aren’t on, it’s just a Lagavulin in cruise control. Possibly more rounded than its 16 year old counterpart. 8.7/10.” Ah well. I was having fun. Clearly.

The final dram was the most local of all of the offerings, because I tried some of the mysterious “Living Cask” by Loch Fyne Whiskies’ own store. This is a batch of whisky that is made in-store and constantly evolves as the proprietors cook up their own blend using a recipe of their own choosing – one which they were not willing to divulge at any point. Given the description of the process, it was no surprise that the nose delivered all sorts of elements whilst not having anything too distinctive. The mystery continued with the taste, which was surprisingly light with a delicate peppery kick which disappeared quite quickly. It might have been because I had spoiled myself during the day and had been on some fairly big hitters, but this didn’t really do it for me. It was great to take part in part of a whisky legend (see Ian Buxton’s 101 Legendary Whiskies…) but overall it was just a pleasant dram with nothing much to write home about the taste itself. 5.5/10.

[I must add though that I did go to the store the following day and sampled their “Living Cask 1745”, which is their own peaty, Islay-centric blend and that did deliver the goods for me. A great balance of fairly delicate peat smoke and silky sweetness. 8.0/10]



Sandwiching these drams with fine food and Fyne Ales made for another fantastic and enjoyable day, and the weather played along nicely and made for a wonderful climax as Skerryvore closed the proceedings. [I would heartily recommend their Decade album, and the Bruichladdich Skerryvore Decade cask strength single malt that was exclusively released for band, should you manage to get your hands on it!] It was a great send-off to a great, local, fun and friendly festival and I for one will certainly be returning.

Inveraray Castle Driveway

Inveraray Castle

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Best Of The West Festival 2015 – Day 1

My trip to the 2015 Best Of The West Festival (or “Bowfest” as simply referred to) was a journey two years in the making and it did not disappoint!

Pretty much two years ago to the day, WU embarked on their first Islay road trip. Having started out from the south of England, it took us 14 hours of travel to get to the hallowed peaty turf in the western isles of Scotland. As we drove past Loch Lomond en route to the ferry terminal at Kennacraig however, we started to circumnavigate Loch Fyne and were blown away by the beauty of the small town of Inveraray. Not only did the white-walled town look special from the approach, but as we drove over a steep, humped bridge, we got an awe-inspiring glimpse at Inveraray Castle. I remember instantly thinking that I needed to come back and explore this place.


Inveraray Castle

Jump several months later, and adorning the front of The Whisky Shop’s own Whiskeria magazine, accompanied by the title “One Fyne Lady”, was a picture of the Duchess of Argyll. In the article, she candidly spoke of her and her husband’s heritage and mentioned that they were set to host their 4th annual Best Of The West Festival. No need to think twice… I looked into it and tried to make a WU trip happen. The weekend event sounded incredibly fun, but unfortunately, our diaries just couldn’t make it happen. ‘Next time’ I thought….

Jump ahead another few months and I happened upon the copy of Whiskeria again and quickly set to making plans to attend the 5th Bowfest. Unfortunately, the dates didn’t line-up again with the WU boys, but I was determined to go and Mrs H was only too happy to oblige and make a week long trip of it. Good times.

As I’ve said above – the event did not disappoint. The scenery was stunning and made the perfect place-setting for a good-natured celebration of Argyll and the Isles’ fodder. There were 4 large tents set up in a giant horseshoe in the grounds of the castle, which housed: the main stage and bar (manned by and offering up Fyne Ales’ finest), a food tent, a crafts tent and, most importantly, the acoustic stage and whisky tent. Given that the event is held at the end of the summer season, it was a great shout to get as much of it undercover as possible, though the weather was actually pretty compliant throughout.

The Dram and Castle

The Dram and Castle

The main stage’s line-up on the Saturday was full of great acts, with the biggest names being Skippinish (who played an excellent cover Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and also offered twin bagpipes throughout) and the headliners, the excellently entitled, Peatbog Faeries. One of the biggest cheers of the day however was made for local heroes The Camans, who are fronted by the event’s own music organiser, and they too played some excellent contemporary cover versions – more so than any of the other fine bands on that day. A personal favourite of mine was a local folk group called Have Mercy Las Vegas, who played some great heart-rending music with wonderful vocal harmonies from all band members, despite being nearly upstaged by the lead singer’s own toddler.

The whole festival had a great, relaxed and good-mannered vibe. The focus seemed to be on good produce and good times for friends and family, and it suited the surroundings perfectly. There was even a children’s tent and play area. Everyone was in good spirits (in more ways than one), and what was even more humbling was the fact that the Duke and Duchess were in amongst it too, wearing hoodies and mingling with everyone, chatting and introducing the bands. Regardless of the stunning array of whiskies available (which I will get to), this was the perfect local festival. I mean, where else can you get a venison burger and fine, rare scotch for £12.50??

Duke & Duchess of Argyll

Duke & Duchess of Argyll

On that note then, the whisky tent was stocked by Inveraray’s own Loch Fyne Whiskies, and the selection was breathtaking. Given that I wanted to remember it all, I took the day and the drams in my stride and thoroughly enjoyed:

  • Hazelburn 12 – a cheeky sherry/Christmassy smelling and tasting dram with a late vanilla taste – 6.0/10
  • Auchentoshan 16 (Distillery Art) – my favourite light dram of the weekend with a light peach and vanilla taste throughout – 8.4/10
  • Lagavulin 12 – a Lagavulin “light” although still quite the puncher, offering just wood and peat. Simple, strong and satisifying. 8.6/10
  • Ardbeg Supernova – clearly one of the most in demand drams of the weekend and sold out before the first day was over, but this chap was big, bold and clean. Like a purer version of the 10 year old. 8.5/10
1/3 of Loch Fyne Whiskies

1/3 of Loch Fyne Whiskies

With a 7.30pm curfew, the day did seem to disappear but for all the right reasons and it did leave way (and avoid the headaches) for a second day of folk-based fun…

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