Saturday, February 26, 2011

Celebration Whisky and a comment on age


Age: 16 Years
Proof: 86 (43% ABV)


My wife took me out for a celebration last weekend and all the while I was enjoying my dinner (and the company, of course) I was thinking about my after dinner whisky.  Typically, I pass on this temptation as 1) the prices are astronomically inflated over the price of a bottle and 2) I usually have a fun bottle or two waiting at home that I would prefer anyway.  But on this particular night 1) Vicki was paying and 2) they had Lagavulin 16.

I’m not going to spend a ton of time assessing the merits of Lagavulin 16 – it’s quite simply one of the best whiskies in the world and something every whisky enthusiast should try.  The color is a beautiful amber.  The nose was certainly of an Islay whisky, but not overly peaty.  The taste definitely had some of the sea in it, but it was extremely smooth, with a mild finish and hints of caramel to help you say goodbye.

But that brings me to the age.  Lagavulin 16, Ardbeg 10, and Highland Park 12 are all some of my favorite drams, regardless of the age.  On the surface, many people assume that the older the whisky, the better it is (within reason, of course).  But as my tour guide at Glenkinchie once told me, whisky is as old as it should be to taste the best it can taste.  The maturation process must be synchronized with the rest of the whisky making process to create the perfect dram.  So in the case of Ardbeg, that’s 10 years in the barrel.  Conversely, Lagavulin is perfect at 16 years old, which is part of the reason it is such a sought after bottle.  It’s more expensive since there are higher production and storage costs, plus the scarcity factor with fewer bottles produced. 

Would I say that Lagavulin 16 was empirically better than any whisky which took ten years to produce?  I would not.  Would I say that it is a fantastic whisky that everyone should try once?  That I certainly would.

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