Tonight, (February 2, 2016) is the season 1 finale of the The Expanse which is airing on the Syfy network. What is The Expanse and what does this have to do with Lagavulin 16? 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. The TV story follows Captain James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante, Detective Miller, and United Nations under secretary Chrisjen Avasarala as they fight to unravel a conspiracy that threatens peace in the solar system.
****Warning. There is a possible spoiler ahead If you have not yet read Abaddon's Gate (book 3 of The Expanse) and plan to. Proceed at your own risk.
Whisk(e)y is often referenced in the book series (5 books and 5 short stories) but Lagavulin 16 is the only whisky to be mentioned by name. What is typically referred to in the books is not what we are used to imbibing on earth. In the future whiskey is distilled on moons, minor planets, and asteroids from a variety of sources including grains, moss and fungus. Sounds delightful. In the beginning of Abbadon's Gate (3rd novel in the series) our protagonist James Holden orders a bottle of Lagavulin 16 in a moment of celebration:
While I have no interest in trying Whiskey distilled from moss or fungus I do enjoy heavily peated islay single malt scotches....from Scotland. So what better way to celebrate the season 1 finale than by reviewing Lagavulin 16? Will we see some Lagavulin product placement in later seasons? Probably not but I wouldn't put it past Diageo to try.
The Lagavulin Distillery is located on the southern shore of Islay, Scotland. The distillery was built in 1816 however the history of the site goes back to 1742 where at least 10 illicit bothies were illegally distilling. Interestingly enough neighbors include Ardbeg, the closed Port Ellen, and Laphroaig. The latter distillery was involved with Lagavulin in a few legal disputes in the 19th century. The brand is now owned by multinational alcoholic beverage giant Diageo and produced by United Distillers & Vintners. In addition to the 16 year old single malt Lagavulin also produces a limited 12 year cask strength offering and a yearly distillers edition that is aged in Pedro Ximenéz casks.
Cost: Sample provided by /u/jbr1234. Typically $80 - $90 per bottle in SC. Thankfully not $1600.....yet.
Casks: Refill oak casks
Age: 16 years
Mashbill: 100% Malted barley dried over peat
Pour: 2 oz neat in a Scottish Glencairn
Nose: Rich and dense. Vanilla laced with peat, and salt cured, smoked port. Marsh at low tide near a smoldering campfire. Lapsang Souchong. A touch of iodine and shortbread round out the aromas.
Palate: Mouth coating viscosity. Brine and soy sauce. More peat mixed with charcoal ash and salted pork.
Finish: Super long finish with an underlying mellow heat. Campfire ash, sea salt and medium coarse black pepper linger through till the end and then some.
Lagavulin 16 is a fantastic example of what happens to heavily peated islay single malts given some additional time and patience. The intense smokey character that is often associated with peat becomes more complex and layered throughout the sensory experience. Now we're getting into cured and smoked meat territory. Also, there is a lot to be said for an older, heavily peated single malt that can be found just about anywhere with a decent whisk(e)y selection. If you enjoy Lagavulin 16 I can't stress enough to try Laphroaig 18 before it disappears from shelves.
I had the opportunity to ask James S. A. Corey on reddit why he chose to use Lagavulin 16 in the book over the plethora of other scotches and whisk(e)ys available (Warning - I turn into a total fanboy here). Now for those of you who don't know, James S. A. Corey is a pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. I'm not sure who from the duo typed out that post reply but I was informed that the whisky was chosen at random from his bar and the name is fun. Fun indeed......just listen to Brian Cox say Lagavulin. Kaboom. Take that as you will but I am going to embrace it and continue to live vicariously through the livers of the Rocinante crew. Remember the Cant!
***Edit (2/8/16): It was mentioned that Ty Franck uses the /u/JamesSACorey username on reddit. Also important - Ty Franck writes James Holden's chapters. Therefore, Ty Franck is responsible for choosing Lagavulin 16. The mystery is solved!
Recommended: Laphroaig 18, Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength, Lagavulin Distillers Edition
- Mark @ Entry Proof