Having shown you How to Taste Malt Whisky and set you on the right track with some hints and notes about Oban 14 Year Old Malt Whisky , it seems only logiocal that we head south to the wonderful island of Islay and start working round the coastline.
Last year we helped establish a new tour which sets off from Oban Aiport in the morning and returns in the late afternoon having indulged in a few visits to our Islay neighbours. Currently we are helping guests make arrangemenst for this "educational" day out but it soon becomes clear that when doing it correctly we ought to offer to drop guests at Oban Airport and most importantly collect and drive them back at the end of the day- to allow full enjoyment of the Water of Life through the day!
Of the great homes of malt whisky the greatest is surely Islay, home even today to seven active malt distilleries.
And first among the Islay malts is Lagavulin - the definitive Islay malt. As early as 1742, there were perhaps ten illicit stills operating at Lagavulin. In 1816 local farmer and distiller John Johnston founded the first legal distillery, within view of Dunyvaig Castle, once the stronghold of the Lords of the Isles.
The barley used to distil Lagavulin is malted at nearby Port Ellen and has a strong peat "reek" - it has perhaps twenty times as much exposure to peat smoke as a typical Speyside Whisky. Fermentation of the barley is a slow process, too. Between 55 and 75 hours are taken for the full peat-rich flavour of the locally-malted barley to come through.
The four stills at Lagavulin, two of them pear-shaped in the style inherited from Malt Mill, take this peaty wort and give it all the time and care it deserves. Following the original practice, Lagavulin receives the slowest distillation of any Islay malt - around five hours for the first distillation and more than nine hours for the second. This long distillation is often said to give Lagavulin the characteristic roundness and soft, mellow edges that devotees rightly prize.
Lagavulin is a powerful yet wonderfully rounded pleasure. Its recently described "awesome power and marvellous complexity of flavours" are enjoyed by a significant number of malt lovers, for whom this big, dark, intense character just is malt.
LAGAVULIN 16 YEAR OLD
A much sought-after single malt with the massive peat-smoke that's typical of southern Islay - but also offering a dryness that turns it into a truly interesting dram.
Lagavulin is an intensely flavoured, smoky-sweet single malt with seaweed flavours and a huge finish, aged in oak casks for at least sixteen years.
Strength : 43% ABV
Appearance : Deep amber gold.
Nose : Intensely flavoured, peat smoke with iodine and seaweed and a rich, deep sweetness.
Palate :A rich, dried fruit sweetness with clouds of smoke and strong, barley-malt flavours, warming with an intense flavour. At the back of the mouth is an explosion of peppery smoke.
Finish :Huge, long, warming and peppery with a distinct appetising sweetness.