Lagavulin (Laga-voolin) means ‘the hollow where the mill is.’ Perhaps ‘the hollow where the still is’ would be a better description since it is believed that there were up to ten illicit stills in this area in the mid eighteenth century with Lagavulin itself being established in 1816. It is now one of Diageo’s flagship ‘Classic Malt’ and is certainly one of the most robust, peaty Islay malts around. This is not, perhaps, a malt for beginners. There are four relatively small, fat stills and according to the owners this spirit “receives the slowest distillation of any Islay malt – around five hours for the first distillation and more than nine hours for the second is the norm”. It is this slow distillation that gives the malt its characteristic roundness and soft, mellow edges. Fermentation of the barley is a slow process. Fermentation is also slow – between 55 and 75 hours – which the distillers say allows a fuller, richer peatiness to come through. It is mainly matured in refill European oak casks.
Pale gold in colour. Good beading. Huge, fine and complex. Intense, abundant smoke surges out of the glass, yet it’s fragrant smoke that doesn’t obliterate the softer mossy scents here. After a while carbolic soap, lightly smoked haddock and an intensely sweet and fruity tinned fruit salad. The onslaught continues with wasabi on fresh herring, or ozone in a gale on the pier. Lightly sooty, developing smoked cream cheese. Light but hugely smoky. Starts dry and vibrant, with masses of intense smoke. Again smoked cheese, softer now, under that fresh young character. Sooty, yet so sweet! A classic !!