Lagavulin’s 200th AnniversaryMarch 1st, 2016
Signaling the significance of the event, Diageo sent a senior whisky team to the intimate dinner in London held to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the legal founding of Lagavulin distillery. Guests were greeted by David Gates, global head – premium core spirits along with Dr. Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach, distillery manager Georgie Crawford, and colleagues from the Diageo archives and brand teams.
With 200 years of history to acknowledge, Morgan referenced in his remarks a number of distinguished commentators on Lagavulin, reminding us that the world’s first whisky writer Alfred Barnard found Lagavulin, “exceptionally fine” back in the 1880s, going on to describe the make as, “held in high repute.” Further reference was made in Morgan’s speech to vintage press reports which perhaps today would not pass legal scrutiny, suggesting as they did the enthusiastic consumption of large quantities of whisky. Prudence dictates that I do not report any further such irresponsible imbibing.
But the reference to historical authority and precedent was not accidental. Barnard had sampled an 8 year old Lagavulin (a mature style for the period) and to honor his visit and celebrate the 200th anniversary, Diageo used the dinner to announce that the commemorative bottling will be an 8 year old Limited Edition. Guests were able to sample this new expression, led in the tasting by Georgie Crawford.
It was also her role to hint at some of the other ways the anniversary will be marked. Guest facilities at the distillery will be improved with the creation of a new garden looking out to the ruins of historic Dunnyvaig Castle and the installation of a video booth where visitors will be encouraged to record the story of their own journey to Lagavulin. And, of course, there is promised to be a very full program of events at this year’s Feis Ile and the Islay Jazz Festival, sponsored by Lagavulin. More details will follow as the year unfolds. There will be activity in key markets, such as the U.S.
The availability of the 8 year old expression will be of greatest interest to the distillery’s fans unable to visit its island home. It is anticipated that bottles will hit the shelves in June with a suggested retail price of approximately $65.00 in the U.S. market. My tasting notes follow:
Nose: Pronounced maritime and smoke notes, with underlying fresh-cut brown bread. Citrus in the background (lemon zest?). Notes of red fruits develop with the addition of water. Fresh and lively.
Palate: The body is quite light but clearly is distinctively Lagavulin with the signature taste of sweet, warm, tarry wood smoke and developing depth and complexity. More sweet notes emerge with water to tussle with the Lapsang Souchong black tea flavors. Hints of herbal tobacco and fresh mint.
Finish: The smoke lingers engagingly with a final flourish of sweet minty tea perhaps served from a cedarwood chalice that had been dipped in the sea.
If this is the start of Lagavulin 200 then 2016 will be a year to remember.
Please note we will be featuring Lagavulin’s 200th Anniversary in the upcoming summer issue of WA, due out in early June.