The jewel in the crown of ‘The King of Islay’ is noble, generous and precious, understated yet rich in subtle, smouldering intensity; truly an exceptional gem of a whisky. This lovely, mature single vintage malt, the first 26 year-old Lagavulin Special Release, perfectly expresses the rich first-fill Pedro Ximenez/Oloroso cask style and is quite delicious, sure in the knowledge that its balance and smooth tastes have been shaped and respected by the decades. A deep-hued beech tree in autumn.
On the mellow nose a finely woven wine-woody aroma of great complexity takes time to yield its individual secrets. Light, fresh and vinous top notes mingle with the linseed oil of an artist’s studio then fade into a warm suggestion of sun-bleached polished mahogany, backed by dry edible seaweed, with sweeter hints of baked fig and butterscotch. Further in, the aromas grow more pungent, oily and fragrantly smoky; like going fishing, with background aromas of tarry rope and boat engine. If a little water is added, their intensity is reduced, while a note of clean linen survives best. In the light, ultra-smooth and oily texture a sweetness briefly gleams, soon tinged with salt and pepper, the whole growing more savory and smokier all the time. Here is all the precious sweet-smoky style of Lagavulin, in a glowing, well-rounded form. A drop of water, not needed, yet seems to heighten the harmony of flavors.
Long, sweetly warning and faintly smoky, as with smoldering beech leaves, leaving an aftertaste of chanterelle mushrooms. A drop of water introduces a little pepper, then the smokiness reasserts itself in the drying aftertaste.