This 11 year old bottling was designed to pair specifically with steak and is made be aging the spirit in American and European oak casks that are shaved down and then heavily re-charred, really pouring on the wood influence. This is a much different whisky than last year’s bottling — but I suspect Lagavulin fans will find it more immediately familiar than the 2021. Let’s dive in.
As expected, notes of chimney smoke waft immediately from the glass once it is poured, though after it blows off, a fruitier note becomes evident, impregnating the aromatics with some apple and spice elements. It’s less maritime than the typical Lagavulin expression, but not far from the center of the distillery’s standard issue dartboard. Initially lightly sweet on the palate, notes of baked apples give way quickly to a reprise of peat, here showcasing more salty sea spray — but not really much in the way of iodine or medicinal notes. Chewy and sooty, it’s a more brash exploration of smokiness that comes across as somewhat less complex than many of Lagavulin’s other expressions.
The finish finds a cookie-like sweetness pairing with burnt toast and ashy fireplace embers, again quite smoky but not overtly Islay-centric, though it’s close enough for government work. All told, I feel like this release takes classic Lagavulin and dials back some of its more evocative and nuanced elements, though that actually makes for a more powerful overall production that does indeed keep the focus on smokiness. If Offerman/Lagavulin really did want to create their “smokiest whisky ever,” I think they’ve succeeded — though it’s not so powerful as to bowl you over the way, say, a glass of Octomore can. If you want to experience Lagavulin stripped down to its basics, this makes for an interesting experience, though I don’t think it will be anyone’s favorite version of the whisky.