Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Islay Single Malt of the Year

January 29th, 2013

Lagavulin 21 year old Special Release 2012, 52%, $624

There were any number of contenders for my Islay choice this year: the glorious but very limited Bowmore 1964 (which remains the greatest glass I encountered in 2012), and a cracker of a Caol Ila bottled for last year’s Fèis Ìle. There was the depth of the Ardbeg Day bottling, while Kilchoman and Bruichladdich both came up with inspirational local barley releases. When it came down to it…it was impossible to see past this Lagavulin.Lagavulin 21 Year Old

For me, it was a dram that captured everything you want from a single malt; not just  individuality, but how the weird alchemy of a place and the skills of the people working there fuse together to create a liquid that somehow encapsulates the location itself.

This isn’t a drink, or a malt, this is LAGAVULIN. It could only have been made at this tiny spot on the planet, a distillation of the citadel of Kildalton, a fluxing mix of sea and shore, a dram that when you closed your eyes transported you to the place, with a slight salty smirr in the air, to peat fires and long talks, to dusty flowers, bubbling meat stock, cups of pu-erh tea, and a peat fire which imbued the space with its scent, sticking to your clothes, inveigling its way into your brain.

Lagavulin released a similarly magnificent bottling for the 2011 Jazz Festival and, for a whisky usually only seen from refill cask, here was an indication of how it could absorb sherry casks into its already mighty structure without so much as a blink.

Like any great drink it made you slow down and think about what was happening on the tongue.  You can’t ask for anything more.— Dave Broom

The Highland Single Malt of the Year will be announced tomorrow.

9 Responses to “Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Islay Single Malt of the Year”

  1. Spot on with this award because the Lagavulin 21 yo is a fantastic Islay single malt whisky. It’s definitely one of the best Islay’s.

  2. Davin says:

    Tasted this last week and it truly is just wonderful whisky.

  3. Henry says:

    Gosh, I’d love to taste this stuff. Maybe I can get some grant support to buy some. My proposal to the foundations will include plenty of quotes from the hype here on this blog.

  4. OudErnest says:

    $600+ for a 21 yr-old? Crazy. At least it appears to be sold in the US unlike the last six consecutive winners. Not that I can afford it.

  5. MrTH says:

    A decade ago, I could afford 20-25yo Lagavulins, Ardbegs, even Port Ellens. No more. Supply is down, and demand is up. Here is the price for the mood swings of the marketplace. Those who work to make whisky fashionable, popular, and cool are my enemy. They feed the boom and bust cycles that mean that I’m happy when distilleries are closing and unhappy when business is good.

  6. Chris says:

    Given how sensational Lagavulin seems to be when filled into fresh wood, does anyone know why the standard practice is to fill it into re-charred/re-toasted barrels? The only Lagavulin I’ve had that I like is the Distiller’s Edition, since it has enough sweetness to balance the smoke. I can only imagine what Lagavulin fully matured in fresh oloroso or PX would be like.

  7. Luke says:

    I once had a bottle of the previous 21 Year-Old (1985) STG £100.00 at the Distillery.
    Sadly missed…

  8. Stevely says:

    I tasted this last week as well at VWF – a very impressive and memorable dram indeed. Not surprised to see this as the Islay winner.

  9. Edward Willey says:

    I can’t wait to try this in the next week.

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