Eight-year-old for good
March last year brought us the first information about the new, limited edition planned by Lagavulin. The eight-year-old whisky was to commemorate the bicentenary of the distillery on the one hand, and on the other – remember the visit to Lagavulin by the whisky writer Alfred Barnard that took place at the end of the 19th century. The author of the celebrated “Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom” fondly remembered his visit to Islay and praised Lagavulin in particular. No wonder then that those responsible for the distillery’s image chose to use that historical event as a leitmotif of the limited edition launched for the distillery’s bicentenary.
It so happens that today (Monday, 13th Nov. 2017) the distillery is including the eight-year-old in its official core range. Lagavulin enthusiasts will say – high time. The renowned Lagavulin 16yo must have been feeling rather lonely in the core range. And the eight-year-old Lagavulin – apart from being a “signature Lagavulin-style bottling with liveliness that balances out the Islay smokiness,” to quote Georgie Crawford, the distillery manager – is a result of the distillery’s still working to the max in the noughties, when they had to face the unprecedented popularity of the malt in order to capitalise on that popularity. In other words, Lagavulin fell victim to its own success after it had won the hearts – and palates – of new generations of whisky lovers with the excellent Lagavulin 16yo being a part of the popular Classic Malts of Scotland. In order to cope, the distillery’s capacity had to be used to the full. As a result, Diageo’s warehouses got filled with whisky which has now matured enough to be included in the standard offer.
As it turns out, Diageo’s whisky stocks are big enough to offer the new, no-longer-limited Lagavulin 8yo not only in Europe, but also in the USA, Japan, Canada and Taiwan.
Lagavulin 8yo is bottled without chill-filtering, at 48% vol. Its retail price is to be about 15% lower than that of Lagavulin 16yo. At the moment, the prices of both whiskies are similar, with the limited-edition eight-year-old usually slightly more expensive that its twice as old sibling, which is directly related to the limited availability and a special character of the whisky.
Lagavulin distillery, one of two on Islay that belong to Diageo (the other one being Caol Ila) is a medium-sized still. Its production line consists of, among others, 10 larch washbacks and two pairs of copper stills, which results in an overall capacity of approx. 2.5 million litres of pure alcohol annually. The figure is somewhere in between its direct neighbours, Ardbeg (1.5 million litres) and Laphroaig (3.3 million), though it is considerably lower than the industry’s giants like Glenfiddich (13.7 million) and Glenlivet (10.5 million). Because of its location, there is no room for Lagavulin to build new warehouses, which means the bulk of its production is tankered away to mature in Diageo’s warehouses on the mainland.
The 8-year-old Lagavulin was not, in fact, the only edition commemorating the distillery’s bicentenary. Lagavulin also offered its fans a 25-year-old single malt matured in ex-sherry casks, bottled at cask strength (51.7% vol.), as well as an absolutely unique Lagavulin 1991 Single Cask. The money raised from the sale of the whisky was donated partially to several charities on Islay. Sources do not quote the number of bottles in the original, limited edition of Lagavulin 8yo. As to the other anniversary releases, there were 8 thousand bottles of Lagavulin 25yo, and that single cask from 1991 was enough to fill only 522 bottles. No wonder they reach astronomical prices at auctions.
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