Our mission: to help in the transition from drinker of quantity to drinker of quality. Along the way, we'll have some laughs, or someone's catching heck. Prolly me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lagavulin 16

By Brew Radely
‘Oh my’ is how one must begin this review. ‘Get thee to a distillery or local boozadashery to procure a bottle of this’ is my next statement, emphatically punctuated by a fist slamming into lacquered hardwood. My tasting was not in the controlled, mad laBOREatory setting of the good Johnny Lager. No, dear Scout, I was out in the field, fighting for my meals, putting my back into my living.
I was on the road again, this time in the icythroes of -5 degree Minneapolis. The evening began early in the camaraderie of a co-worker happy hour with a couple really nice local beers (more on that another time.) The crowd thinned and I was dropped off at my hotel. Having missed dinner, I decided to walk to the restaurant /bar across the lot and wind down the night with I and I.

At the bar, I ordered a chop salad and sat there stewing, feeling particularly negligent about my weak participation on the recent Laphroiag review. Sure, I had chipped in a few token sentences, but pitiful words that cowered like an abused child on $2 Pabst night next to the other towering Stumbler reviews.

‘Barkeep,” quoth I, “what have ye for Scotch?” I listened to the litany of usual single malt suspects: McCallan 18, sorta interesting. Glen Livet 12, yawn. And of course, the Cal Ripkin Jr. of blended, good ol’ Johnnie on the spot. Then that tenderest of tender’s mouth stumbled over a name I’d never heard.

"Excuse me, guv’ner, pray repeat that one what begun with ‘L’?"

-"Lagavulin 16, lad."

The brand sounded vaguely coital. Potentially vaginal. Wholly alluring. But what’s in a name? We’d soon find out. I shot back a confident nod and deliberate blink that let him know that would, indeed, do it.

He returned with a midwesternly, voluminous pour; two fingers and a hay if it was a drop. He eased it into my hand with two or three cubes bobbing contentedly and a back up glass of ice should the need arise. I liked this cat already. The first sip was stunning- like free steak dinner, unexpected road sex, midsummer sunset over Shinnecock Bay stunning. I will be the first to admit, my palate is rather unsophisticated, a blue collar bruiser trying to hang with the elite. But this knocked my tongue on its Fox News watching, Nascar loving ass.

The initial notes are sweet—a sweetness that I can’t explain, or don’t have the words, that I find in many of my favorite scotches. Something that eases up all giggly and blushing to mop a weary brow, then stays there for while, ready to listen to one's woes or offer advice on a nice value stock to buy. The peat comes next—but slightly less aggressive than the Laphroaig. Not so much the earthy right cross, but more of a peaty memory foam paddock, nestled deep within the heather of the island of Islay, ready to apply even, healing amounts of peat to all of the aching pressure points of my smiling prone figure.

Mouthfeel is a characteristic that I also struggle to describe—but this was satiny and creamy, as though someone had milked Ron Burgundy’s office and hand delivered it to my glass like a beautiful liquid mustache. It finishes with a pleasant smoky finale that makes you feel like you’ve just shown Watson, yet again, the error of his simple ways (though you do wonder why you keep the daft bastard around- it’s your own ego, you must know that. Get over it and let the dimwitted beast have his life back).

That, mes petits, is the power of this scotch. At 16 years, it’s older than most of the stuff I normally buy, and I imagine it’s likely pretty pricey. But I do intend to seek this one out again.


  1. Ay, few sipping experiences are quite so wonderful as that of Lagavulin 16. I tried my first in an Edinburgh pub. I have my latest thanks to a local liquor store in Roslindale, MA. At $63 it's more than I normal spend for 750 ml. But then the pleasure I've had is worth much, much more.