Lagavulin 16yo ‘Port Ellen’ (43%, OB, Circa 2006)

Well, after all those old, sometimes priceless, but always hard to get, independent bottles I reviewed recently, it’s now time for something more easy to get. A standard bottle, even sold, in some countries, in your local supermarket, at reasonable prices to boot. Add to that, it’s usually decent quality, so this is a bang-for-your-buck type of malt.

We’re talking this time about the Lagavulin 16yo. The bottle I’m reviewing is from 2006, and I guess because of the high turnover, it is probably bottled in 2006 as well. I don’t know exactly when the bottles with the royal warrant were succeeded by the “Port Ellen” ones, but this could be one of the first.

Many stories surround these Lagavulins. First of all that, when the royal warrant disappeared from the label, the quality went down. In fact the quality was dwindling even before that. Last year or maybe in 2010 I heard that the quality level is picking up again. This year I  hear again that the recent bottlings are not as good as they were once before. So lot of debate about this one, and considering the interest, we know this is a popular one.

I tasted once a bottle from 1992, and scored that 92 points, so lets see how this one from 2006 will compare to that.

Color: Full Orange Gold.

Nose: Smoke and burnt wood (the next day). Black and white powder. It’s less peaty than I remembered, creamy peat. Animalesk and spicy, which makes it a bit ‘dirty’. Salty, sea and seaweed. After a while only smoke and bonfire remains.

Taste: Sweet, licorice with some peat and a slight hint of milk chocolate, almonds and wood. Sugar water. Black and white powder again. Not as rounded as earlier expressions. Smoke towards the slightly spicy and sweet finish that isn’t heavy at all. Salty sensation on the lips. In comparison, this is less complex.

I love Lagavulin, and I understand the producers statements that it isn’t true that Lagavulin 16 got worse. That memory doesn’t serve us well. Well that’s not the case. Earlier bottles are still around in big numbers so it’s not hard to do a head to head between older and more recent expressions. All I can say is they don’t make Lagavulin 16 anymore as they used to, but with all those efficiency regimes and when only the amount of alcohol yielded per tonne of barley counts, you can hardly be surprised.

So Lagavulin 16yo isn’t what it used to be, but how does it do on its own, not compared to the older ones? Well that’s another story, even today it’s a pretty special dram, that still scores pretty high, but I like the new 12yo better, although a completely different dram.

Points: 87

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