Following on my last post, a comparison of Feis Ile Laphroaig samples from whiskysamples.eu, I’m now comparing two cask strength Lagavulin samples. First up is a 1994/2010 for Feis Ile, bottled at 52.7%. There were only 528 total bottles in this release, and it’s coming from European Oak ex sherry casks.
Next, we have a No Age Statement (NAS) release, bottled in 2010, that is only available at the distillery. The 6,000 bottle run comes from casks that had been tagged to be part of the Distiller’s Edition release, but according to Ruben at WhiskyNotes.be, they were too good for that general release vatting. He also states that they have been extra matured in sherry-seasoned American oak.
I compared both of these CS special releases with my bottles of standard Lagavulin 16 (2009) and Lagavulin DE (1991/2007).
Let’s start with the standard bottlings for reference…
Lagavulin 16 (2009) 43% – A nose you can get lost in. Fruit that starts as apples, then turns into dried red fruits, like there are some sherry casks involved. This is combined with sweet peat and iodine, and a subtle (for an Islay) smokiness that envelops the whole thing. Magical. The palate is thick and rich, and sweeter than the nose lets on. On the finish, peat and coal smoke galore, with a sweetness lingering on the tongue. My 2006 bottle had more caramel, to the point where it almost got in the way at the end. This 2009 bottling is more balanced. A true classic. 92 points.
Lagavulin DE (1991-2007) 43% – Another nose to sit with and take in for a long time. It has “in your face” sherry influences. The fruits are darker than the 16 year…dried fruits and over-ripe berries. Still medicinal and peaty. Neither of these standard Lagavulins have as much tar and coal smoke on the nose as younger Laphroaig and Ardbeg expressions, but it’s there in the background. Big, juicy, fruity peat on the palate. Then, on the finish, an explosion of earthy peat smoke takes over in the back of the nostrils, bouncing off of and mixing with the fruit on the tongue. Compared to the 16 year, this is equally captivating, but different. One of each, please! 92 points.
Lagavulin 1994/2010 for Feis Ile (52.7%) – The nose seems a little muted (compared to Laga 16 and DE). I’m getting sherry sweetness and peat, but also a fair amount of wood influence, with some cedar and vanilla (like a Laphroaig). The fruit flavors fall between Laga 16 and DE, but closer to the 16. There’s less iodine here and more coal smoke and tar. On the palate…wow! What a party on the tongue this expression is! Big impact, without being harsh. Great peppery spices. Heading into the finish, it starts to dry the tongue, but then suddenly the mouth waters. A different kind of Lagavulin magic! 92 points.
Lagavulin NAS 2010 Distillery Only (52.5%) – The nose is similar to the Feis Ile bottling in many ways. The fruits are darker, with a stronger red berry presence. It’s also a little sweeter. Similar on the palate and finish as well, but not quite as “magical.” It doesn’t have quite that same drying/watering combination on the tongue. Excellent, none-the-less, with great impact and a long finish. I would certainly buy a bottle given the chance. 91 points.
It seems like the Feis Ile expression is kind of a cask strength representation of the standard Laga 16, and the Distillery Only a stronger DE. When comparing all four together, the palate/finish stands out as being more impressive in the special edition bottlings.
Here’s the thing, though…when drinking Laga 16 and DE on their own, they don’t lack for presence on the palate, and the finish is long and brilliant. The standard bottlings also offer an improved experience on the nose (for me, anyway). The stronger alcohol in the cask strength offerings prevents me from really digging my nose in and getting lost in the aromas.
Perhaps there’s a magic combination of whisky and water that preserves the magic on the palate and brings out the aromas of the nose with these special releases. I didn’t have a large enough sample to experiment in this way, though. Therefore, I consider all of these whiskies to be on fairly equal footing. That being said, if you’re more about the palate/finish than the nose, I think the Feis Ile release shoots ahead of the others.
As with the Laphroaig Feis Ile releases, you can find great notes at both whiskyfun.com and WhiskyNotes.be:
- WhiskyNotes.be – Feis Ile 2010 and Distillery Only
- whiskyfun.com – Feis Ile 2010 and Distillery Only. Also 16 year and DE here.
My friend Gal, over at whiskyisrael.co.il, also got a sample of the Distillery Only bottling. He really liked it, but perhaps enjoys the standard DE a little more. Hey…same conclusion!Cheers, Jeff