Of all of the Game of Thrones Collection bottlings, this one surprises me most with its house alignment. Oily, coastal, peated – Cersei, Jamie and Tyrion?! I don’t really get it. But, as tenuously linked as these bottles are, it’s nevertheless pleasing to see Lagavulin continuing a trend which stated a few years ago – namely that, of not being afraid to put age-statements on a younger bottlings. The 8 year old (now part of the distillery’s core range) turned some heads, and has to my mind, somewhat set a new direction for Diageo – despite years of asserting that ‘age matters’ and then years of doing the exact opposite, there’s now at least some occasional balance being offered. The company has wised up the fact that their customers drink things and know things.
The House Lannister 9 year old is composed of 100% ‘fresh’ ex-bourbon casks and comes in at a cost of £67.62 from Master of Malt – a fairly substantial step up in price from both the 8 and 16 year olds.
Nose: Surprisingly fruit-driven with tropical fruits (mango and guava) alongside raspberry meringue. The peat is also quite sweet – a combination of reduced smoked berries with brown sugar, tempered by brine, sea breeze and coal ash. Deeper – oven-roasted pork sausage, molten plastic and smouldering bracken and fern. The combination works particularly well, despite being much lighter than most bottlings from this distillery. Dilution adds treacle tarts, an edge of hayloft and barnyard as well as vegetal moss and leaf mulch.
Taste: The arrival is oily and viscous. Its first delivery is tangy sweetness – raspberries and strawberries with burnt caramel and pan sugars. It’s second – a billow of sooty ash and burning paper. Vegetation is present once again – wet hay and mosses and plenty of pipe tobacco. A gentle medicinalness runs throughout – not quite full-on iodine, but close – with pepper and cloves pushing through the development with some nice piquancy. The addition of water expresses charred meats, marshmallows, quartz and oddly palma violets – there’s complexity here.
Finish: Quite long and somewhat more medicinal with surface cleaner, ointments, ash, tart grapefruit and a pang of bitter oak.
Lagavulin 9 year old House Lannister is in my view streets ahead of the other bottlings in the Game of Thrones Collection. It is the only bottle that I’d consider buying myself. Whilst there’s a lot less peat oomph here than you might find in many other bottling from this distillery, don’t for one second believe that this lacks teeth. There’s impact here, it’s just more fruit-driven and subtle than a peated punch in the face. Impressively so given the ex-bourbon basis of this whisky - there’s a genuine difference between this 9 year old and other similarly aged expressions from Lagavulin. I’ve been waiting for a GoT bottle to impress me, and true to form, it’s the Lannister which pays the debt.