It has been close to a decade since we last visited Lagavulin’s Distillers Edition, an annual fixture on Diageo’s extensive release calendar.
Special editions within Lagavulin’s portfolio are nothing new: the 12-year old Special Release, Distillers Edition, and Feis Ile expressions annually lead this charge. Recently, Diageo has taken the liberty to expand on the portfolio and Lagavulin stock. Limited releases such as the 10-year expression (exclusive to travel retail), the Game of Thrones edition and 11-year old Offerman Edition have all received due fanfare and positive feedback. Word has it another Offerman variation finished in Guinness casks is slated for release later in 2021. Bully for us.
For the Distillers Edition, Lagavulin typically uses their standard 16-year-old bourbon-cask aged expression for a base, but finishes it in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. However, this 2020 release utilizes a 15-year old malt as its base. We’ve reached out to Diageo for clarification as to why, and will update when we hear a response.
Like all siblings in clan Lagavulin, the nose here goes big on the coastal notes: lots of ocean vegetation, eucalyptus, and iodine. With time, nice flourishes of peat smoke, raisin, and dark chocolate emerge. The palate continues with the expectations of peat and lemon leading the charge, but rewards patience with a generous burst of dried fig, menthol, and ripe apple towards the end. A long finish of campfire and bitter herbs transition into an oscillating cycle between citrus and iodine that is unrelenting but enjoyable.
This year’s offering is safe and predictable: no real surprises, but with consistency comes mild comfort and familiarity. That certainly does not make it any less enjoyable, and this is one of the better, if not the best offering in the series over the last several years. However, one minor quibble remains unresolved and suspends it from elevating to greatness: for the cost of admission, this would be much improved if offered at full-bore cask strength.
UPDATE (3/24/2021): We’ve received word back from Diageo regarding the age concerns mentioned above:
Our Distillers Edition range is picked annually to be bottled as the year of distillation and not as a specific age. The casks are chosen for their flavor profile to honor that year of distillation therefore the age of the liquid in the bottle could vary year to year. By bottling as a Distilled Year allows the Distillers Edition range to become a collectable item.
Hmm. Okay, then.