It's lost that sharp wood smoke flavor, which is my favorite part. While it's still excellent, it's lost some of what made it stand apart from some other Islay malts. With the peat and tar notes, it reminded me of some Laphroiags I've had, and maybe a Caol Isla or two.
I asked my dad what he thought. He said he hadn't noticed a change, but said someone else had commented to him about it. Have any of you noticed anything odd?
I had read an interview, last year, with Lagavulin's distillery manager, who mentioned the difficulty of maintaining consistency. Has she failed, or has this issue been years in the making? Is this just natural variation over time? What do you think?
I have noted that last year's Lagavulin 16 is softer than in past years.
We have only been drinking whisky in the last few years but really like the big smokey flavours of the Islay whiskies and Lagavulin tastes great to us but never tried it before 2010.
I have a bottle open now and it almost reminds me of a Bowmore - more stewed fruits and dark chocolate.
I have often wondered if it was just me and my more developed whisky palate or if it has really changed. As mentioned above it's still a great whisky, but I believe it has in fact become tamer.
Novice Scotch Fan, I note that a particular whisky can change from year to year, but I hadn't noticed it with Lagavulin before.
American Daughter, I've heard great things about Lagavulin's tours, and am looking forward to taking one myself.
Fscott, I can't say that I find it tamer, exactly, but definitely less unique. I can't quite put my finger on what it reminds me of, though. It doesn't have the vegetal notes I associate with the Bowmores I've tried. I've also had the thought "I have often wondered if it was just me and my more developed whisky palate or if it has really changed." But since there's one particular note (the sharp wood smoke) that I really love, which has disappeared, I'm going to have to say the whisky has changed quite a bit, very recently.
However, since I have never noticed a change before this, I certainly don't have as discerning a palate as Ganga, who noticed changes in quality from year to year.
And I wasn't aware there was any sherry in it.
I happened to bring up the subject while I was at my dad's this afternoon, and he happened to have two open bottles, one from 2011, and one apparently from the previous year. They were noticeably different from each other, and both very different from what I remember.
Here's hoping! I will try to track down the reference--I think the book was at a ski buddy's in Vermont in his bathroom...
whiskgeek wrote:It's changed... What do you think?
Of course it's changed!
The first momentous change occurred when UDV-Diageo decided to discontinue the 12 Year Old 43%ABV (White Horse Distillers label) version in favour of upping the age statement to 16 years. This alteration perhaps represented the most dramatic of all, as the original 12 Year Old edition was an absolute, unbridled monster of a whisky. Wish I'd purchased case-loads of the stuff!
In compensation, the newer 16 Year Old offered up, initially, a slightly more complex and, naturally, more mature potion.
Then there were those distillates produced during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Someone behind the scenes had the brilliant idea to increase the peating levels to 50ppm during this period, and the resulting releases of the 16 Year Old were beauties to behold. Alas, this particular phenomenon didn't last long, the distillery quickly reverting back to a more conventional ~35ppm peating level for the malting process.
Above and beyond these factors, there's the question of Sherry casks. UDV-Diageo has, pretty much across the board and over the last decade or two, transitioned from ex-Sherry cask usage to ex-Bourbon (and refill) cask usage, with the exception of special edtions and whiskies from its Distillers Edition series. Lagavulin has not escaped this transition.
These days, I pretty much stick to the 12 Year Old cask-strength releases. I am heartened, though, to hear of better quality as concerns more recent 16 Year Old releases. May even try one!
So if they changed the recipe around 1995, and sales took off around 2000 (that's just a guess, based on when I started seeing the Classic Six)... and they decided to go back towards the old recipe... we might be seeing improvements in three years?
As I mentioned, last year's taste had lost the smoky complexity. This year's taste was similar to the earlier style, but very sweet, which implies a lot of sherry.
Oogie is my favorite right now, and I like it slightly better than the old Laga 16. I also like the Laga 12, but not as much.
In 2006 I moved out of the country and purchased 19 bottles from what I assume was the 2005 bottling to bring with me. About 3 years ago I had some decent duty free opportunities ($70/ea) and decided to start my supply up again as I was down to about 8 bottles.
Boy what a shocker!
Where was the big bold iodine peat bomb I had been enjoying for the past 28 years? I now regret giving a few bottles away before knowing I was sitting on (at that time) 10 bottles of the "vintage" stuff.
Although I do somewhat enjoy the newer crop I did not have what I suspect was a 2-3 year period where the GUV transitioned for those who bought yearly - like I used to.
So this may explain the lack of discussion on the internet of the newer, mellower Islay.
A good friend of mine who introduced me (I hated it my first few times, too medicinal, tasted like gauze and iodine) is still a huge fan and did not know things were different recently but once I mentioned it to him he somewhat recalled the older, bolder flavor.
While cleaning up the room where I store my scotch I found a hidden bottle bringing up my total of the "vintage Lagavulin" up to 6 bottles. I was hesitant to open one for this holiday season thinking I only had 5 bottles left but after yesterday's discovery I cracked a bottle and tried the new and the vintage side by side and the difference is remarkable. Without even tasting the nose alone blows you out of the water.
I turned 50 in August and I cannot sit on these 6 bottles forever. I can only hope to weave in a bottle of the new and then the old and make it all last another 10 years. I do enjoy other scotches but, "Lagavulin - There is no substitute".
If anyone knows of any plans to go back to the 16 year old monster from days of yore please post it here. We can only hope....
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