Still a bit tipsy, but marginally steadier on our feet we arrive to that distillery that, maybe, is truly the one that screams peat and Islay: the iconic Lagavulin. It’s one of the my favourite distilleries, and therefore I was as full of excitement as I was recently before watching Avengers: Endgame. The Crew of the Filth feels my awe, and my companions are less loud than they usually are. This awe, though, doesn’t spare me a rich dose of insults – that I actually deserve – since I made them come to the distillery 30 minutes too early. Keeping my head down, I mutter some kind of apology, and I hope that the Lagavulin Sensory Experience will make my companions forget it. This Sensory tasting is actually a very interesting experience: we get 5 drams, Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin Distillers Edition, Lagavulin 8, Lagavulin Jazz Festival 2017 and Lagavulin 12. We are also provided with some samples full of things we could (should?) find during the tasting. From salt to dried peat (not really the best choice this one, imho), from vanilla to sherry infused wood. I should do something like that more often! And on top of that I could taste the Lagavulin Jazz Festival Special Edition 2017!
Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival 2017 (57.6%, OB, 2017)
Matured in a mix of American hogsheads (refill) and 1st-fill American Barrels.
Nose: A right and a left to the nose with a powerful peat smoke. The pairing with some Lapsang Souchong (we got some tea leaves too) suggests me that you can really find a similar smell here. Dry, full of violent peat, vanilla and alcohol. Aaaaah, but it also has fruity side: dried figs, sugar, apples. Intense and simply great.
Taste: Alcohol and peat confuse me, and its marine side is quite fun with the classic combo salt + peat smoke. I think I taste some tea here too, but I might be manipulated, like during the show of a bad magician. Dried fruits, apples and, well, a peat smoke powerful but very well integrated.
Finish: Long and spicy. Ranking: LUKE SKYWALKER.
After the tasting we also managed to taste a glass of the fantastic Lagavulin 18 years old bottled for this Festival. It was amazing, I even bought a bottle! Mr. Rotten and Jancarlo Magalli, instead, shared a bottle of the Lagavulin Jazz Festival, while the Expert, for years accused of being a stingy and dramatically cheap SOB, tries with all his might to change our opinion by buying one bottle all by himself. The good Moss, instead, falls in love like a hormone-flooded teenager with the always great Lagavulin 12 years old.
He’s gonna annoy the shit out of us He will extensively talk about it for the whole night and will make us go back to the distillery the day after to get a bottle. After the tasting, we get back to Port Ellen where we left the car in the morning. The air is warm and there is a nice empty beach in front of us… What can 5 stereotypical Italians on vacation do in this situation? Exactly, we buy a ball and start playing football on the beach for a while. Here the tasting notes of the match.
The Expert 1985 (46%, OB, 2018)
He’s definitely a much superior player, out of the league of all his opponents. He manages to confuse and to dramatically outplay the others with feints and counter-feints, particularly effective thanks to the fact that he doesn’t possess normal-working knees anymore. This issue makes him physically as dominant and powerful as an amoeba, but it guarantees him a flexibility similar to the one displayed by Mister Fantastic. Despite these limitations, he is by far the best player in the field. Ranking: DARTH VADER.
Moss 1986 (46%, OB, 2018)
His technique is not too shabby: Moss doesn’t score many goals in the matches, but he’s definitely the best assist-man here. His fitness level leaves much to be desired, also because he keeps wasting his breath in endlessly repeating that he wants to go back to buy a bottle of Lagavulin 12. Obsessed. Ranking: HAN SOLO.
Mr. Rotten 1984 (46%, OB, 2018)
The multiple fatherhoods made the “Andrea Pirlo of Cantoira” a bit saggy, but he demonstrate to not have completely lost his technical prowess in his old age. One cannot say the same about his hair, but this is a story for another time. He suffers the fatigue and my kicks in the shins, but he’s able to ridicule his opponents in many occasions. And the ridiculed opponents are always just me, of course. Ranking: HAN SOLO.
Jancarlo Magalli 1984 (46%, OB, 2018)
The “Ibex of Torrevecchia Teatina” shows his qualities as an aggressive and disciplined defender, and one understands why he keeps at home the human-sized pictures of Paolo Montero and Jaap Stam. Sadly, as his nickname suggests, Magalli is very effective only on vertical walls in the mountains. Since we play on the beach, he is devastatingly slow. Ranking: BOBA FETT.
Yours Truly 1986 (46%, OB, 2018)
He incessantly and unnecessarily runs all over the place to compensate the total absence of technical skills. At one point he is so annoying with his bad shots out of target and with his appalling lack of ball control, that both teammates and opponents agree to make him believe that the fields ends at the other end of the beach and they send him running down there. He realises the deception only when the game is finished. Ranking: JAR-JAR BINKS.
After the game and after helping ourselves with nice refreshments, we go back home and like true youngsters we spend the evening playing cards and gossiping about absent people, as tomorrow the Laphroaig Warehouse tasting awaits us! This time the distillery tour starts already at 10am: Laphroaig is in a fantastic location, with the Warehouse n°1 overlooking the bay. The distillery tour is very interesting, and we also visit the famous old malting floors – Laphroaig uses a small percentage (15%) of barley malted on the spot for particularly heavily peated projects, while it gets the rest from Port Ellen. Each year Laphroaig burns about 250 tons of peat (because who cares about climate change), rigorously collected in local peatlands. Our guide shows us also the curious seven Laphroaig pot stills. Normally distilleries, as they usually perform a double distillation, have an even number of alembics, half of them wash stills (first distillation) and half of them spirit stills (second distillation). Now, Laphi for some historical reasons uses 4 spirit stills of different sizes. At this point our guide feels like he really could use a drink and therefore he lets us in the legendary Warehouse n°1, where three casks selected by master distiller John Campbell are waiting for us.
The first one is a Laphroaig distilled in 2003 and that after 7 years in an ex-bourbon casks was moved to a quarter cask. Another one is a Laphroaig distilled in 2005 that spent 6 years in an ex-bourbon cask and it was then moved to an ex-sherry Amontillado cask. All my travelling companions choose this one to bring home (we can bottle our own 0,2l souvenir bottle), whereas I pick another one…
Laphroaig 2004 Handfilled – Distillery Only (49,7%, OB, 2018)
This one spent 14 years in am ex-bourbon “extra charred” cask (meaning extra-carbonised before the filling). It’s of a golden colour in the glass, and one can see some small black residuals of the cask floating around. As I bottled it myself, it’s by definition not filtered!
Nose: A very delicate vanilla starts throwing rocks at my nostrils, but the nose makes an unexpected U-turn and goes towards some bananas and… lavender? The peat smoke is quite subtle and delicate, but very much present. Caramel, salt, then again a very elegant smoke.
Taste: The smokiness is more evident here, apples, bananas and lemon. Full of tasty caramel, and after some time it rewards you with a lighter and delicate smoke. Very very good, I’m quite happy about my choice! I feared for a moment that the imbecility of the moment made me take a wrong decision.
Finish: Medium-long, with cooked apples, and an interesting cinnamon that I hadn’t noticed before. Ranking: LUKE SKYWALKER.
A Warehouse Tasting is a unique experience, as each time the tour offers different barrel and ultra interesting also to understand what the distillery can produce if “untempered”. After the visit, we stroll to the distillery bar, to try a Laphroaig Cairdeas 2018, matured in ex-sherry (Fino) barrels and the latest version of the awesome Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength. Both very nice, the 10 years old in particular. The Expert and the Moss, now in full extremewhiskyconsumism mode, buy one bottle each. Sadly, because of the Moss’ notorious luck, he won’t be able to enjoy a drop of it, as his bottle will be destroyed in the luggage during the retour flight. That’s why you take trains! And this is the review of a sample of this Cask Strength Laphi, generously offered to me by Mr. Rotten.
Laphroaig 10 years old Cask Strength (58%, OB, 2018)
It’s the batch number 10 of this modern classic. For some it’s one of the few modern Laphroaig editions worthy of the great name of the distillery. I personally have no idea, I just know I love these cask strength Laphis! And let’s hope this one is no exception…
Nose: Well, peat smoke dark and hard, unmistakably salty and marine. Might be simple and somehow “classic”, but boy I love it! I’d stay here nosing it for hours. Medicinal smoke, very intense and fat, with lemon and ashes. So great!
Taste: The peat smoke it’s even stronger and powerful, with some vanilla saving my palate from a peat bomb. No weird finishes, no weird wood used, just what you expect and want from a hard and salty Laphroaig. So good, dangerously drinkable! There is some sweetness too, some fruits (peach, apples) that balance a bit the salty side. With some water the smoke it becomes even more peatapocalyptic and delivers a deliciously peaty, mossy, seaweed-y flavour. With water it’s even better. Just great!
Finish: Long and powerful, with a peat smoke that doesn’t give, some herbal notes and still enjoyably (and not overly) sweet. Oh, and it has (had?) an amazing quality-price ratio too! Ranking: DARTH VADER.
At this point, still full from the abnormal breakfast we gobbled up in the morning, we start thinking about hitting the road to the north of the island. But I bored you long enough for today, I stop here. Stay tuned for the last part!
END OF PART TWO