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.
Light gold in colour. Immediately quite soft with clean, fresh notes, faint hints of milk chocolate and lemon – developing fragrant, tea-scented smoke alongside nose-drying, maritime aromas. Light, growing pleasantly oily. A magnificently full on Lagavulin taste that’s somehow even bigger than you expect, and charred, with minty, dark chocolate. A clean, long and smoky finish – subtle, minted smoke, chocolate tannins and finally warming, leaving the palate dry as sweet smoke lingers on the breath.