Lagavulin 8 - 200th Anniversary Edition
Last year I wrote a review of Lagavulin 16 to coincide with the season finale The Expanse (season 1). I am a huge fan of the books, tv show and the writers behind James S.A. Corey. Both formats make numerous references to whisk(e)y distilled in space on moons/minor planets/asteroids using whatever materials available including grains, moss, and fungus. Take me to flavor town.
For the uninitiated The Expanse TV Show is the adaption of the popular book series by the same name - a space opera/mystery science fiction drama set two hundred years in a future where humanity has colonized the solar system. If you haven't heard about The Expanse, read the books, and/or seen the show do yourself a favor and start binging. You can thank me later.
*****Warning. Potential spoiler ahead for those of you who have not read past Abaddon's Gate (3rd novel) or who want to wait for the TV series to catch up. If this concerns you go ahead and skip the exposition down to the tasting notes. Otherwise consider yourself warned.******
I am going to summarize here as this has been covered in my aforementioned review. In the beginning of Abaddon's Gate the crew of the Rocinante are on Ceres celebrating some recent successes. Captain James Holden wants something special to toast with before the crew parts ways to gamble, indulge, and otherwise blow of steam. His search leads him past some of Ganymede's finest hooch and onto a bottle of Lagavulin 16 at $1200 per bottle. Nothing but the finest for the Roc crew.
Not counting for inflation that is nearly 13 times more expensive than the current price of a bottle on the shelves in the US. I know this doesn't account for other variables including the bar retail markup, demand, scarcity, etc. As of 2016 the cost per pound to launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 FT with full payload was $1,233. Fast forward 200 years into the future and the prospect of exporting a bottle of Islay Scotch Whisky is quite a luxury when the final destination is about 257 million miles away.
In celebration of the season 2 finale of The Expanse I thought it would fun to review a different Lagavulin bottling. Up to this point Lagavulin 16 is still the only whisky to be mentioned by name in either of he 6 novels, 6 novellas/short stories, or 2 seasons of the tv show. So this really has nothing to do with the Expanse other than being a perfectly good excuse to pour a dram and watch the best science fiction series on TV today. Also worth noting that Lagavulin 8 is a limited bottling released in 2016 and intended to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Lagavulin distillery. Its a celebration, bitches.
Cost: $77 Purchased online from Caskers in 2016.
Distillery: Lagavulin (Diageo)
Filtration: Conflicting reports of non-chill filtration (NCF).
Coloring: Conflicting reports of added caramel coloring (e150).
Age: 8 Years
Mashbill: 100% Malted barley dried over peat
Pour: 2 oz pour neat
Nose: Vanilla and floral. Smoke from a dying campfire. Brine. Salt marsh at low tide. Smoked candy.
Palate: Medium viscosity. Vanilla. Sugar cookies laced with salt and smoke. Campfire on the beach mixed with stinging salt spray.
Finish: Long finish that ends super dry. Coarse ground white pepper, kosher salt, campfire ash and a touch of sweetness.
This is really good stuff although a definite departure from its much older brother. The smoked meat component is missing which takes away some depth. The vanilla is a big player in the flavor profile - more so than I pick up in most scotch whisky, especially Islay and peated whiskys. However that being said the vanilla was much more pronounced after initially opening the bottle. Since the bottle has had significant airtime the vanilla has been tempered.
The ex-bourbon casks used in the maturation process must have had a good bit of residual wood sugars intact to impart so much vanilla character. Also, I have a hard time believing that any coloring was added to this juice as it is ridiculously light in color. Did you see those pictures!? Crazy light. Non-chill filtered on the other hand? Maybe. Probably. There is just too much conflicting information from Diageo and other bloggers to feel comfortable saying yay or nay to either. Maybe if Diageo would just print this on the damn label.....
While this was developed to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery I don't feel like the bottling run was that limited. Bottles are still kicking around on shelves around these parts. Back in 2015 I traded for a bottle of the Laphroaig 15 year (also a 200th anniversary bottling) and then saw it sit around on shelves for more than a year later. Still kicking myself as the other end of the deal was way better.
There is an interesting article over at Forbes where Nick Morgan, "head of whisky outreach" at Diageo is interviewed in regards to this release and includes the story behind the 8 year age statement. Word on the street is that Alfred Barnard described an 8 year old Lagavulin expression in 1886 during a visit to the distillery as, "Exceptionally fine." That is the entire story behind the age statement on this release. As Danny Glover said it in the Lethal Weapon series, "That's pretty fucking thin." I have to agree with Sgt. Murtaugh on this one. You can still find these on the shelves now. That being said I felt like this was a fantastic pour and would grab another bottle if the price was south of $70.
Cheers to the writers, actors, and crew behind season 2 of the Expanse. I have really enjoyed this season and can't wait for the season finale. Also big congrats on being renewed for season 3. I know its more than a year away and season 2 isn't over yet but when something is this good it just gets my juices flowing. The Space Opera genre is alive and its called The Expanse. Remember The Cant!!!
Recommended: Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Highwest Campfire