Somewhere along the way, Lagavulin dethroned everyone else to become the go-to distillery for fans of peated Scotch. You can blame Nick Offerman for a lot of that. Offerman began stumping for the brand in 2014 and his love affair with Lagavulin presumably goes back well beyond that. And now, at long last, Ron Swanson fanatics can “drink like Nick” by sipping on a special edition of Lagavulin that bears his visage.
Lagavulin 11 Years Old Offerman Edition is immediately curious because there has not been an 11 year old release of this whisky ever before. Also, aside from the quirky 8 year old version (update: and the Game of Thrones release), it’s the youngest expression of Lagavulin ever released. It’s also that the Offerman version is considerably more expensive than the standard release of Lagavulin, which is 16 years old and costs $66.
Though the standard bottle does not carry Ron Swanson street cred, of course.
Let’s give it a try.
The whisky’s relative youth is evident from the start, the nose offering a thick, ashy, and surprisingly off-putting quality that folds in notes of smoked fish, wet horse saddle, and creosote. With time in glass, the nose really brings out a clearer note of cigarette butt, but the classic fruit, vanilla, and spice notes of Lagavulin 16 and older expressions are simply and inexplicably absent.
The palate thankfully finds more nuance than the blunt aromatic attack. Here notes of baked pie crust, clove-studded orange, and fresh-cut grass make for pleasant (and familiar) companions to the main event, which — spoiler alert — falls back heavily on notes of wet earth, tobacco, and chimney soot. There’s a modest sense of balance between these two poles, but the whole affair is quite earthy, through and through. With air time, a gentle citrus note becomes increasingly prominent, lingering nicely on the finish, but it’s an awfully long time coming — and those undercooked notes of soot are tough to shake.
Young Islay whisky can be delightful, as Kilchoman has proven for a decade, but everything about LagOfferman just feels a bit undercooked yet full of unrealized promise. Having reviewed a whopping 15 expressions of Lagavulin to date before this one, I was pretty shocked to find it ranked as my least favorite of all of them.
Hey, I think Nick Offerman seems like a pretty great guy, but I’m not going to say this is a masterpiece of a whisky just because his picture’s on the bottle. Complain in the comments.