When Lagavulin 8 year old was first introduced in 2016 for the distillery’s 200th anniversary it turned heads in more ways than one. A young age-statement rather than an NAS? A price not that far away from its sherry influenced, twice as old stable-mate? The bottling marked a change of tact for Diageo - and obviously performed so well, that it has now been inducted into the distillery’s compact core range offering.
There’s little to tell you about the spirit and maturation regime here - 8 years, ex-bourbon, no messing around and served up at 48%. If only everything were this straight-forward...
Nose: Bright, honed and chiselled - lemon drops, lemon drizzled oysters, iodine, TCP and hospital floor cleaner alongside engine oils, seafood cocktail and cane sugar. Water brings out some gentle bakery aromas - rolled pastry, almond brittle and a very slight touch of soapiness (Parmolive brand).
Taste: Bigger, brighter and peatier. Sharp and well-honed spirit meets just the right amount of maturation. Neat stuff. Lemon Pledge, lemon curd (sugary and sweet), grapefruit and lime zest make for a sharp and citric arrival with a lovely balance of sweet vs. sour - a perfect soil for the peatiness that will follow. And follow it does - powerful and exceedingly ashy with a combination of steely coastalness, Vicks Vapour Rub, menthol and eucalyptus. Reduction adds oiliness and a sense of dirty engines as well as salinity and pine needles.
Finish: Long, very ashy (almost chalky) with plenty of salted peanuts, sharp and sour lemons and dryness.
Lagavulin 8 year old is a very welcome addition to the distillery’s core offering. Sharper, and less sweet than its 16 year old sibling, this is distillate-driven whisky with a minimal amount of fuss. The very light soapiness I detected on the nose holds it back from true greatness (one can only judge what’s in front of you), but I’m pretty confident this was just a slight aberration of my sample.
Its single-mindedness should be applauded, as should it’s inclusion of an age-statement....a trend which has now spread to other corners of the Diageo portfolio. Transparency and precise spirit-forward whisky - what’s not to like?