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  • Writer's pictureHarold

Lagavulin Trio

As Lagavulin's legendary, former distillery manager Iain "Pinky" McArthur gets ready to finally hang up his wellies, I can't help but wonder if he's still referring to Nick Offerman as "that Ron Swanson fellow" during his final days of guiding the warehouse tastings. I had only the one chance to experience a "breakfast tasting" as I refer to it, since they usually take place around 10:30am...and was one of the lucky few to have been "baptized" by the man himself. A familiar joke he plays on the most eager looking, whisky nerd of the tasting...and one of the proudest moments of my young whisky life.

Lagavulin  12 Year |Diageo Special Releases 2021| Refill American Oak – 56.5%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase


"The Lion's Fire"

12 Year |Diageo Special Releases 2021| Refill Casks – 56.5%

"Refill" is a very loose term, over at Lagavulin. During that same tasting I mentioned above, Pinky casually stated that sometimes they'll use an ex-bourbon cask up to six times before retiring it. A comment that stuck with me at the time, though made all the clearer when discovering how well their robust, oily spirit tends to favor that sort of maturation more.

I'm also not sure if this particular release is all ex-bourbon, as the bottle only states "refill casks." It's Whiskybase page (which we sometimes forget is more of a Wikipedia than a Whiskipedia) states that it's "refill American oak," though that can also incorporate sherry seasoned, American wood, which is used more often in today's market than European. It could just be a word of mouth thing that these releases are all ex-bourbon but I can't recall if I've heard that before. I do unfortunately tend to forget most of the information I hear at tastings. If only alcohol could improve your memory skills...I'd probably be a genius by now!

Appearance: Pale gold/honey

First Whiff: Peat scented candle wax.

Nose: Thick, surprisingly cask heavy with loads of grassy oak...sandalwood, tarry ropes and a soft citrus aroma of sweet limes and coconut. Over time it develops a bit more of a floral side...honeysuckle ham.

Palate: Oily at first but fades quickly into creamy citrus and gentle feints...more candlewax, citronella. Slightly salty with some butter dipped shellfish towards the middle with a crisp lemon juice exit.

Finish: Tingly and tart, sour citrus lemonade.

Summary: Probably would've taken well to some water, but unnecessary for me. Solid, standard Port Ellen malt style here. The consistent class of the Special Release series, going on for over two decades now.


Lagavulin  13 Year |Islay Jazz Festival 2021| Ex-Mezcal Cask – 54.8%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase


13 Year |Islay Jazz Festival 2021|

Ex-Mezcal Cask – 54.8%

Traditionally a distillery only release, the 2021 Jazz Festival bottling was made exclusively available on for fans living in the UK (or people with a UK address) due to the ongoing pandemic, at the time. Diageo, never one's to shy away from innovation, were obviously ready for the SWA rules and regulations to finally allow casks, which previously held agave-based spirits, and used this bottling as their inaugural release of such an experiment.

I've tried a handful of releases, at this point, which have included either mezcal or tequila finishes...including some American whiskey as well. The results have been predictably hit and miss, in my opinion...which just means we need to further experiment, of course. It's also worth mentioning this 3,000 bottle release started it's maturation in refill American oak, before spending an unknown amount of time in the mezcal casks. It may be some time before we see a fully aged mezcal/tequila cask release, though, under the right production process, surely anything is possible.

Appearance: Deep brown

First Whiff: Sliced, grilled oranges.

Nose: Dry, ashy citrus and bonfire intensity. There's a tangy powder mix element coming from the warm, woody caramel notes. Some subtle ginger spices mixed with cocoa dusted sandalwood and smoked tea. With water: Salmon candy and some softer caramel.

Palate: Thick and oily, just perfect. There's a dangerous drinkability at first with some supple, slightly sour orchard fruits...prickly pears, red apple and some dried apricots...but more on the juicy side. With water: Slightly prune-y now, verging on burnt, dark chocolate/molasses.

Finish: Fire-y but warm. Water cools the vibe and adds a resinous, clove coating with lingering liquorice and star anise.

Summary: Some of these notes are very familiar with sherry aged, peated whisky (which is a dangerous thought). There's a lovely layer of complexity coming from the balance of maturation, offering a little bit of everything all at once. Really superb effort here.


Lagavulin  12 Year |Diageo Special Releases 2023| Don Julio Añejo Tequila Finish - 56.4%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase


"The Ink of Legends"

12 Year |Diageo Special Releases 2023| Don Julio Añejo Tequila Finish - 56.4%

One of the many benefits to being the largest producer of spirits in the world is that you, more often than not, have access to an extraordinary cask selection. It's one of the obvious reasons why Diageo is able to afford this next experiment. I'm guessing the scotch version had a much longer finish than its tequila counterpart, back in 2019 though.

Appearance: Pale honey/Yellow gold

First Whiff: Cancun...2005...a misguided high school senior drinking lots of bad decision juice...

Nose: Fresh Don Julio casks, it seems, as the tequila jumps out of the glass initially. Warm, roasted agave, feint-y low wines...very vegetal...boiled cabbage and sweet citrus mixed with a thin layer of cedar wood smoke.

Palate: Chewy oils, which ease the alcohol and let the sweet citrus (lime mostly) and caramel shine. Soft tannins from the tequila are still pretty evident but the chemical feint-y side has been rounded out a bit. Some seaweed and limoncello take it home, reminding you there's still some mossy peat left in here.

Finish: Creamy and bright. Long and lingering with warming notes of citronella and sour green apple.

Summary: The Don Julio definitely brought out some of the youth from the whisky. Certainly less subtle than the Jazz bottling. Felt unbalanced from the start, which from the tequila aged stuff I've tasted so far, usually carries on through the whole unpleasant experience. I think I'll call these kind of agave, cask-driven bottlings "whisquila" from now on. Patent pending...



Lagavulin Trio


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