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