Posts Tagged ‘Lagavulin’

Georgie Crawford of Lagavulin Distillery — In 140 or Less

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Author - Caroline DewarAnother in our occasional series of Tweet-style interviews. As always, it’s 140 characters or less (we don’t count the spaces) in the answers from the distillery manager of Lagavulin. Georgie Crawford left Islay at thirteen to live on the mainland. In her work life, among a few other places, she spent some time at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society before joining Diageo. She returned to Islay a few years ago to take over the management of Lagavulin.

What’s the view from your office window?

Today it is blue skies and green rolling fields full of sheep. I can also see my house, and now it’s sunny I can see I need to clean the windows!

Get a little man in for that! What’s happening at Lagavulin this week?

Really busy on distilling as usual, but focusing on pulling together final details of our Fèis Ìle program before the tickets go on sale.

What’s happening for Fèis Ìle [Islay Festival] at Lagavulin this year?

Can’t say yet, BUT the staff have outdone themselves with great ideas to entertain our loyal visitors. We are finalizing the Fèis bottling too; another cracker in 2014.

GCrawfordWe’ll hear more soon then, on your website. You’ve been there a few years now. Anything changed in the distillery or company in that time?

We have focused our efficiency and are making more Lagavulin than ever. With the growth in whisky it all counts so we are glad we will have more whisky for the future.

Sounds great. You were looking at re-use of waste energy, etc. Progress?

There’s a new project on this in the pipeline (no pun) and we have optimized the stillhouse energy. I’m happy with the results to date.

What do you mean by optimized here?

By managing distillation temps we can get better heat transfer in our pre-heat heat exchangers, which saves the steam usage at site.

I was going to say ‘cool,’ but not if it’s steam! Very efficient. I’ve met your new female colleague, also called Georgie. A new Diageo hiring policy?

Georgie Bell. We haven’t met yet as she had to call off her visit due to winter gales. She also worked at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society which is just spooky!

Some mainlanders who now live on Islay run back every couple of months for some R&R. You?

No! I love the islands so much that this year’s trips are Orkney & Iceland! It’s the year of the seafaring Vikings in our house!

I know you like to travel. Are those destinations for work or pleasure?

Both for pleasure; you need to leave the whisky behind sometimes. (Or maybe pack a little bottle in your luggage.)

Sounds reasonable. You traveled far this last year, I hear. Where and why?

China on holiday for the culture and heritage. I will remember the view on top of the Great Wall forever. The Terracotta Warriors were also amazing.

What else fills your non-work time?

Our new puppy Sidheag (means wolf) is taking up most of my free time of late. She is driving me and poor 8 y.o. Jock, the Westie, mad!

Fabulous. Another Westie? And I was going to ask how Jock was enjoying island life…

She is a lab cross wire-haired pointer who will hopefully be a gun dog down the line. Jock is standing his ground and loves the longer walks!

Jock not bossed around then. You like cooking; any signature dish? Are your Lagavulin chocolate truffles in the shop there?

I can’t poison the customers! I make a mean lasagna, its bacon that’s the secret ingredient. Can’t beat my homemade shortbread with a cup of tea.

You were going to be starting a vegetable garden…

We should all have aspirations in life and try to live our dreams but if you saw my cauliflowers you would say, “Stick to making whisky!”

Okay, we will. Are there any distillers you particularly admire (anywhere)?

Pre-Diageo, I was just a whisky anorak. I will always remember John MacLellan spending time with me. Billy Stitchell [at Caol Ila] was my in-house go-to.

What would be your desert island dram? Doesn’t have to be Lagavulin!

Only one – impossible! Lagavulin Jazz 2010 from home or Longmorn 15 yo, Talisker 18 yo or Balvenie 12 yo depending on my mood and the weather!

Great choices, if too many. And it’s all over! Hope that wasn’t too testing and thank you so much.

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

Tuesday, 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.

Four whiskies that impressed me this year, and one disappointment.

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I was thinking about the new whiskies I’ve tasted this year, and which ones stood out (for better or worse). Here are four I really liked, and one that let me down, in that order.

Lagavulin 21 yr. old Limited Edition (2012 release)

The first time I had this was at WhiskyFest New York during the seminar’s lunch program. It’s aged in sherry casks, and it’s a real stunner. It’s packed with flavors, seamless, rich, and the sherry and smoke dovetail nicely. One of my most favorite Lagavulin whiskies ever. It’s just getting into circulation here in the U.S. so get one while you can. (You can check out Dave Broom’s review of it for Whisky Advocate here.)

The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch No. 3

A bottling that went to the U.S. and has been out for sometime now, which I reviewed here earlier this year. Have a look at my review. (There’s a Batch No. 6 that’s replacing it, but I haven’t triend that one yet.) A beautiful whisky, and one of the best Balvenies I’ve tasted in quite a while.

Yellow Spot

We blogged about this new Irish single pot still whiskey here, so check out the link if you want more information. It’s the new, older sibling to Green Spot, which is also a great whiskey. My bottle didn’t last long at all. That’s saying a lot, given that I have plenty of whiskeys at my disposal to drink. (Sadly, like Green Spot, this whiskey is not available in the U.S.)

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch

With two different mash bills and five different yeast strains, you can imagine the potential that Four Roses has to make a great, complex bourbon. Well, the did just that. My review here here pretty much says it all. Like I state in my review, “your decision shouldn’t be whether to buy it, but rather how much water to add.”

And now for the disappointment…

Woodford Master’s Collection Four Wood

I really appreciate the experimentation that Brown-Forman is doing with the Master’s Collection line. It’s always nice to see whiskey companies trying new things, but this one has let me down. It’s the seventh and newest release in the Master’s Collection line. This one’s aged in: American, Maple, Sherry, and Port wood.

I enjoy the nose on this whiskey–there’s plenty going on and it’s very inviting. But the palate is a different story. It’s very sweet up front (bordering on cloying). Then, there’s an emergence of flavors (wood spice, stewed fruit, caramel, etc.) that turns very busy and lacks integration. The flavors just don’t play well with each other. To me, the whiskey is trying too hard to impress and achieves the opposite.


The ten highest rated whiskies in Whisky Advocate’s Winter 2012 issue

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The ten highest-rated whiskies of Whisky Advocate’s winter issue are being revealed right here, today, before the magazine hits the streets. Our list begins with the #10 whisky and ends with the #1 rated whisky of the issue. (P.S. In case you’re wondering where the best whiskeys for the price are coming from right now, this should help to clarify.)

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

Lagavulin from a first-fill sherry butt? There’s unusual. This is huge, fluxing, and complex, mixing saddles and dark chocolate, pu-erh tea and smothered kiln, geranium and velvet, gamey venison and treacle. The smoke is integrated, the fires ember-like, the oak there but not oppressively so. Massive, dense, layered, and complex, this needs time to open. In short, a distillation of Islay and up alongside last year’s Jazz Festival bottling. — Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#9: Elijah Craig Single Barrel (Barrel No. 13) 20 year old, 45%, $130

All the current Elijah Craig 20 year old releases in distribution are single barrel offerings. I’ve tasted a few, and they vary to a degree. This is my favorite so far. Yes, there’s a lot of oak here (resinous, spicy, leathery, tobacco-tinged), but it’s on a bed of layered sweetness (nutty toffee, caramel fudge, maple syrup) that supports and marries with the oak. An ideal postprandial bourbon. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#8: Compass Box Oak Cross, 46%, $50

This has long been a core whisky for Compass Box, but the latest version of it is spicier and fresher than I recall, and without doubt, it’s my new best friend. Virgin French oak heads help to contribute oriental and aromatic spices on the nose, with hints of melon and pineapple candy sweets. The taste is a delight, with spearmint, soft toffee, sweet citrus fruit, lemonade mixed with beer, and strawberry wafers. An array of spices from cinnamon to chili to ginger dominate the finish. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#7: Brora 35 year old Special Release 2012, 48.1%, $645

Previous Broras in the Diageo Special Release series have set the bar remarkably high, and this, the eleventh such bottling, does not disappoint. The component whiskies were distilled during 1976 and 1977 and matured in refill American oak casks. The nose offers lemon and contrasting vanilla and honeycomb aromas. Musty malt and coal in the background. The citrus and honey themes continue into the slightly earthy, peppery palate, while French mustard and coal figure in the drying finish. 1,566 bottles. — Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#6: Eagle Rare 17 year old (bottled Spring 2012), 45%, $70

Usually the least talked-about in the Antique Collection, but in my opinion certainly of the same caliber. This year’s release proves my point: nutty toffee and rummy molasses notes balanced nicely with dried fruit, cinnamon, polished oak, subtle leather, and tobacco. The oak is kept in check for such an age, and all the flavors work well together. Nicely done! —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#5: Johnnie Walker The Casks Edition, 55.8%, $300

You don’t mess with the Johnnie Walker brand name casually, so we expect greatness, and boy, do we get it here. This has a dusty, smoky nose with dried apricot and grape, and the whisky is gossamer-soft on the palate, with sweet pear and honey evolving on top of an oaky rich heart before a tidal wave of pepper and peat, and a delightful spice smoke and oak conclusion. Magnificent. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#4: Sazerac 18 year old (bottled Fall 2012), 45%, $70

A perennial classic. Not aggressively bold like its younger sibling (Thomas H. Handy), but this is a rye of distinction and class. Still quite vibrant for its age, with plenty of spice (cinnamon, soft evergreen, vanilla, hint of nutmeg) softened and balanced by sweet notes (caramel, toffee), glazed citrus, and dried oak on the finish. This remains the benchmark for what a mature rye whiskey should taste like. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#3: William Larue Weller, 61.7%, $70

The key to bourbons that use wheat instead of rye (like this Weller), is to get the right amount of wood influence to balance the sweet notes and add depth. This whiskey does a great job of it. Notes of dark fruit (blackberry, plum, blueberry), layered sweetness (maple syrup, toffee, caramel), and dried spice (cinnamon, vanilla). Soft, pleasant finish. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#2: George T. Stagg, 71.4%, $70

Another excellent Stagg, and considering its alcohol level, it’s also a good value if you can get it at this price. Notes of toffee, pot still rum, nougat, dates, tobacco, roasted nuts, polished oak, and leather. Great depth and nicely balanced. A masculine bourbon of character and structure.  —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

# 1: Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch, 55.7%, $90

A marriage of four different bourbons, ranging from 11 to 17 years old. This, to me, is benchmark Four Roses: subtly complex, vibrant, yet fully matured, with well-defined flavors of bramble, dry citrus, soft creamy vanilla, caramel, marzipan, allspice, a hint of cinnamon, and subtle cedar-aged cigar tobacco.  Soft, clean, polished oak finish. A very versatile bourbon! Your decision shouldn’t be whether to buy it, but rather how much water to add.  —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96


Whisky Advocate’s #6 whisky of the summer issue

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Lagavulin 16 year old, 43%, $90

Lagavulin is a classic example of how smoke isn’t a blunt instrument that covers everything in a fog, but an element that works with all the flavors produced in distillation and maturation. Lagavulin isn’t ‘smoky,’ its peat moves into a weird territory of Lapsang Souchong tea and pipe tobacco, fishboxes and kippers. It smells of laurel and light cereal, but is always sweet. The palate shows more creosote, with hints of kelp and a little touch of iodine. Complex.  — Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

WhiskyFest New York 2012: A whisky enthusiast’s dream weekend!

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The agenda for the saturday seminar program has been finalized. It’s going to be a great day: rare whiskies, debut whiskies, award winning whiskies, master distillers and blenders, and leading whisky writers all in one place.

A summary of the day’s events is below. If you follow the link to the WhiskyFest website (click on the logo), you’ll find the details in outline form and also be able to purchase tickets to this exciting event.

WhiskyFest New York: imagine a weekend of the world’s best whiskies, two nights of grand tastings and a day of seminars presented by the world’s top whisky distillers and blenders, bringing their best, their oldest,and their newest. The seminars on Saturday, October 27th, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be an unprecedented whisky event for those fortunate enough to attend. This educational experience takes the hands-on approach to learning, engaging every sense as we nose and taste our way through a line-up that is not to be missed. Legendary master distillers, blenders, and whisky makers will be pouring their finest—and newest—whiskies!   

The Whisky Advocate writers—the best in the business—will moderate the five 45-minute seminar sessions, and a special whisky-themed lunch, along with several whiskies making their U.S. and world debuts. A brief summary of this very special day follows.

Debut Scotch Whisky

The first debuting whisky of the day will be presented by John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky, featuring mixologist and Whisky Advocate contributor David Wondrich.  In addition to treating us with a world-debut Compass Box whisky, they’ll also be serving it up in a breakfast cocktail. A great way to start a day!

Whisky Collecting and Auctions
Jonny McCormick, Whisky Advocate contributor and Martin Green of Bonhams will enlighten us on the auction and collecting scene that has exploded lately. They will offer tips on collecting and participating in whisky auctions. Attendees will taste some of the very rare whiskies that have been seen on the auction block. The whiskies speak for themselves, as do the personalities presenting them:

Gold Bowmore – Iain McCallum,
Balvenie Islay Cask 17 year old – Nicholas Pollacchi,
Glemorangie 1963 Vintage – Dr. Bill Lumsden,
Brora 30 year old – Dr. Nick Morgan,
The Glenlivet Cellar Collection (1983 Vintage).

Debut Irish Whiskey
Then, legendary Barry Crockett from the Midleton distillery will present the U.S. debut of his very own Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy bottling.

Trending Scotch
Keeping the momentum going, Dave Broom, Whisky Advocate contributor, examines the trends in Scotch whisky. Join Dave to explore smoky blends, designer whiskies, single malt extremes, and brand premiumization. Dave will be joined by the A-list of master distillers and blenders from Scotland who are making some of these special whiskies. Here they are, with the whiskies they will be pouring:

Dr. Bill Lumsden – Glenmorangie Malaga Wood Finish 30 year
Jim McEwan – Bruichladdich Octomore 4.2
Matthew Crow – Johnnie Walker Double Black
Richard Paterson – Dalmore Castle Leod

Debut Bourbon
Here we will feature the world debut of a very special bourbon presented by Truman Cox,  master distiller from  the A. Smith Bowman distillery.  He knows what the whiskey will be, but for now he’s keeping it a surprise.

Understanding Irish
Dominic Roskrow, Whisky Advocate contributor, follows by taking us on a tour of Ireland, explaining the difference between the single pot still, single malt, grain, and blended whiskeys of Ireland. And, of course, we will taste some very special examples of each, and we will be joined by the master distillers who make them:

Barry Crockett of Midleton distillery will pour Powers John’s Lane (Single Pot Still) and Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (Blend)
Noel Sweeney from the Cooley distillery will be pouring a very special grain whiskey – Greenore 8 year old
Colum Egan of Bushmills distillery treats us to a very special Bushmills 21 year old single malt.

Lagavulin Lunch

The whisky fun continues at lunch. Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach, along with Whisky Advocate writer Gavin Smith, will lead us through a tasting and comparison of three special Lagavulin whiskies: Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin Distillers Edition, and the very limited 2012 Lagavulin 21 year old Special Release.

Bourbon and Rye Innovations
Immediately after lunch, we focus on American whiskey. Whisky Advocate contributor and managing editor Lew Bryson will lead a session focused on innovations in bourbon and rye. Joining him will be three legendary master distillers and one whiskey pioneer, and they will be pouring some very special new releases:

Chris Morris – Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection new 2012 release
Harlen Wheatley  – Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project, comparing two Single Oak bottlings
Parker Beam – Parker’s Heritage Collection new 2012 release
David Perkins – High West’s “Campfire” (a blend of bourbon, rye and scotch!)

Award Winning Whiskies
Finishing up our special day, attendees will taste a sampling of the 18th Annual Whisky Advocate Awards winners published in the spring issue of Whisky Advocate magazine. Here they are, along with the Whisky Advocate contributors who will be presenting them:

Gavin Smith: Lowland/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year: Springbank 18 year old (2nd edition)
Dave Broom: Islay Single Malt of the Year:Bruichladdich 10 year old
Lew Bryson: Canadian Whisky of the Year:Wiser’s 18 year old
John Hansell: American Whiskey of the Year:Elijah Craig 20 year old
Dominic Roskrow: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year: Compass Box Great King Street

Tickets for this special day of seminars can only be purchased through a combination package with one of the evening grand tastings.  Tickets are available at  or by clicking here. We hope to see you at this very special event.

Review: Lagavulin, 16 year old

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Continuing with the Islay-themed reviews…

Lagavulin, 16 year old, 43%, $75

An old classic, but how do the newest bottlings fare? Rich, chewy, slightly oily texture. Deep peat, thick smoke, iodine, brine, charcoal, seaweed, Earl Grey tea, and the aromas of a summer barbeque. Vanilla and light caramel soften the intensity, while subtle citrus fruit teases. Powerful, yet polished and seamless. After all these years, this whisky is still one of the finest standard issue peaty, smoky whiskies! — John Hansell

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 94

Special Caol Ila and Lagavulin whiskies for the Islay Whisky Festival

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I’m back. If you’re heading to the Islay Whisky Festival next week (or know someone who is), you might want to pick up a bottle of these two whiskies while you can. They look delicious!


Following the tradition of recent years, Diageo has announced that two limited-edition single cask bottlings of its Islay single malt Scotch whiskies will be sold to personal visitors only at this year’s Islay Festival of Malt and Music (22-29 May:

Diageo’s single-cask Festival bottlings are highly prized, and often sell out within the week of the Festival to the hundreds of aficionados who flock each year to this famous celebration of West Coast single malt whisky.

The 2010 bottlings will be from a Lagavulin™ cask filled in August 1994 and from a Caol Ila™  cask filled in August 1999. Both malts have been bottled at natural cask strength, and will be priced at £74.99. The bottles will be rationed to one per visitor.

The Lagavulin special bottling will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis at the distillery, starting on the distillery’s open day, Saturday 22 May. The Caol Ila bottling will be sold with effect from Monday 24 May which is the Caol Ila open day.

Billy Stitchell, long-standing distillery manager, whose family connections with Caol Ila distillery go back many generations, personally chose the Caol Ila special bottling. The Lagavulin bottling was chosen once again by warehouseman Iain McArthur, renowned among enthusiasts for his sell-out warehouse tastings.

This year’s single cask bottling of Caol Ila is taken from a European oak ex-sherry cask, which has provided just 558 70cl bottles of Single Malt Scotch Whisky at 61.9% ABV.

The Lagavulin has been drawn from a European oak cask hand-picked from stocks stored at the famous Port Ellen warehouse. This edition, bottled at 52.7% ABV, consists of 528 bottles.

Nick Morgan, Diageo’s Scotch Knowledge and Heritage Director, said: “We are pleased to acknowledge the efforts that whisky lovers from all over the world make to visit Islay each year.

“These two hand-picked single cask bottlings are both fantastic examples of Islay whiskies. And I would like to think of them being savoured and enjoyed by our guests once they have made their long journey home.

“Islay is a very special place and I think it’s wonderful to be able to take a very unique part of it home with you.”

During the Festival, a series of special events will be held at both Lagavulin and Caol Ila distilleries, including tastings with the distillery manager and warehouse demonstrations. There will be also be tours of the Port Ellen Maltings.

Review: Lagavulin 12 year old (2009 release)

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Still continuing with these very nice Diageo Special Release whiskies for 2009…

Lagavulin, 12 year old, 57.9%, $75
The aroma is tightly bound, but a little water releases it nicely. A powerful dram, with tarry, leafy, coal ash, caramel apple, driftwood, and even a little soapy (not necessarily a negative). More subtle floral notes (heather, lavender, violet), Earl Grey tea, and smoked fish.  Long, damp peat smoke, charcoal finish.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Diageo whiskies announced for Islay Whisky Festival

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Okay, I’m going for the Trifecta. Third post today. This just came in. If you’re going to the festival this year, you might want to set aside some money for these two beauties.

Here’s the press release:

To celebrate this year’s Islay Festival of Malt & Music on 23-30 May, Diageo has announced that it is issuing two special Festival editions of its Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskies. These very limited editions will be available only to personal shoppers, with a limit of one bottle per person. The natural cask-strength bottlings are: the first-ever single cask bottling of Caol Ila™ by the Distillers, in an edition of  just 654 bottles; and a 14 year old expression of Lagavulin™ in a release of 660 bottles.

Full details online at: