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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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Tasting Notes: Laphroaig – Quarter Cask


Laphroaig – Quarter Cask

One of Laphroaig’s no-age-statement expressions, the Quarter Cask has been matured in traditional ’quarter cask’ barrels, i.e. barrels that hold a quarter the volume of liquid of the usual cask, and so the liquid has more exposure to the surface area of the wood and so the whisky can ‘mature’ quicker than in the normal, larger casks. This may sound like a cheat’s way of doing things but after 7 or so years, the results are spectacular…

ABV: 48%



M: Instant smoke, peat and malt

S: A sweet smokey hit

T: Where’s the fire? In my nose… and I like it! Sweet, peaty, wood embers on the camp fire.



M: Big peaty hit with a digestive biscuit base and a distinct Kidalton coastline aftertaste.

S: It’s like the 10 but more…intense. A salty Islay spray blends with the peat.

T: Islay (Pronouced ‘Is lay’…ha ha) in a nut shell. The taste I associate with this blessed island. It’s an intensified 10 but more rounded, the flavours keep coming and coming, warm and tasty.



M: Long, smooth and smoky

S: Perhaps unexpectedly deep for a no-age-statement…the smoke rises gloriously back into your mouth.

T: As with the taste, this is the whisky that just keeps giving… a long flavoursome smokefest. I think everyone would find something different here, but something worth finding.



M: An absolute belter. I always make sure that there’s a bottle of this in the cabinet! Oh, and who needs “age statements”? If it’s quality you’re after, this is it. Fresh, sweet, malty, smoky and smooth as. 9.0

S: It’s young but is an absolute knock-out! A Laphroaig wild stallion that has been tamed–best consumed on a deep winter night in front of an open fire! 8.7

T: It’s fair to say the WhiskyUnplugged boys loved this number from first sip! Just buy it – you’ll struggle to find better for the price. Just be careful if you live next to a fire station as its pungent smokeyness could induce unwanted attention from the firefighters! (Oh and well done Laphroaig for not going down the “Mit Karamel” route a la the 10 year) 8.9


Top tip:  After finishing your quarter cask dram, leave your empty glass overnight. Give it a deep sniff the next day…it’s like a vanilla bean explosion, heavenly sweet that even your non-whisky drinking dependants will appreciate!

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Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Your Starter For 10

It’s probably fair to say that one of the most intimidating aspects about drinking single malt whisky is the price associated with it. It’s one of the things that can make it elitist and can put a lot of people off. To play devil’s advocate though, if you were paying rent on a place for at least 10 years, you’d probably want a decent return on selling part of it, and that’s what distilleries need to do to earn their way. It therefore follows that the older the whisky, the more investment the distillery has put into their liquid and the higher the income required. There’s also a certain prestige that comes with age and, at a nice round number, that’s why the 10 year old of any distillery is usually their opening staple.

What does a 10 year old whisky represent? Well, for those who enjoy the odd wee dram, it’s the first step to discovering the distillery’s main product. With a 10 year old, you’re going to find out the whisky’s key characteristics: is it heavy or light; is it smoky or not; does it actually taste nice? This is true of any ‘core range’ whisky that a distillery has to offer but, as a rough rule, the 10 seems to be the magic number that shows off their potential or even their best offering.

Starter(s) For 10

Starter(s) For 10

Putting these points together, a 10 year old is most likely to be the cheapest single malt that a distillery has to offer. To us, this means that the 10 is often the one that is most readily available in the shops or in the pub, and as such is your gateway to discovering single malts.

One of the best places to start is with one of the most recognisable names in single malt: Glenmorangie. Powered by successful advertising and sponsorship deals, Glenmorangie is found in pretty much every supermarket and pub and, to be fair, for good reason. The Glenmorangie 10 is an example of a decent, creamy all rounder. It has a nice, satisfying body whilst still having that distinctive whisky burn/rasp. It is certainly a simpler tasting whisky than most with predominantly caramel-like flavour and texture, but, on some days, that can be exactly what you’re looking for and so it’s a good one to have in the arsenal and certainly one to start exploring whether or not whisky is for you.

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old - The Original

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old – The Original

Personally, the Aberlour 10 was the first single malt that I’d ever bought, and that’s largely because it was £20 for a bottle in the supermarket. Of the more readily available whiskies it is certainly a great starter for 10 as a lighter all rounder. It’s a slightly flowery and nutty dram that has a pretty smooth finish. It may just be down to personal experience and fond memories but it is a good place to start and appreciate the difference between a clean single malt and the cheap, rough stuff.

Aberlour 10 Year Old

Aberlour 10 Year Old

On the other side of the spectrum is the Laphroaig 10. Anyone who is starting to discover single malt whisky will quickly come across this bad boy. The first thing that is striking, before you even get to the liquid itself, is the rather alien looking word and it’s distinctive black and white label on a green bottle. Pronounced La-froyg, it instantly displays elegance and class and has a mysterious, cult like feel. And why is that? Because when you open it: BOOM!!! The stuff is liquid dynamite. Amongst the peatiest/smokiest drams out there, it packs a unique punch that will stay with you forever. (I could go on and on about Laphroaig and the other Islay peat monsters – see also Ardbeg 10 – but I’ll save that for another time). Out of their entire range, the Laphroaig 10 is the distillery’s key player and will probably become your regular tipple if peat becomes your passion.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Similarly Talisker 10 is also a great opening gambit. As with Laphroaig, the Talisker 10 is a regularly available malt and, being from the western islands off Scotland, also packs a smoky punch, but with a totally different character to Laphroaig 10. It is widely recognised that your palate becomes more attuned to tasting whisky when you have 3 different whiskies next to one another and it is certainly worth having a nip of Laphroaig and Talisker back to back to get your taste buds in tune to what lies beneath the smoke. Talisker has a smoother edge whilst still delivering smoke and has a distinctive coastline saltiness, which is the brand’s key feature and makes it surprisingly more-ish.

Talisker 10 Year Old

Talisker 10 Year Old

What can be daunting about getting into single malts is that there is a lot to choose from. The big money backing of Diageo behind their ‘Classic Malts’ range is certainly populating the local pubs with more variety, and the Cragganmore 12 and Glenkinchie 12 that sit within that range are also a good base for getting to discover what you like. Also, for the smaller, independent distilleries, the 10 year old is the landmark expression that represents a decade of effort and anticipation that gets their name on the shelves (the Benromach 10 and the new Bruichladdich Laddie 10 being fine examples of that).

Whether or not you agree with the large commercial businesses getting involved (which is another article for another time) you cannot deny that the increasing range of choice can only be a good thing to the enthusiasts and beginners alike and it certainly seems that a distillery’s first double digit dram is the best place to start and maybe even dwell on your whisky voyage.


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