The Lagavulin 8 Year Story
There's the old saying "when you assume you make an ass out of u and me." In that vein, I assumed that when Lagavulin released their eight year old limited edition expression a while back that most fans of the distillery read the propaganda that went along with it (because this is one of the better stories). What I've realized, however, after dozens and dozens of customers have said, "Why would I buy the eight year when I can get the sixteen?", is that the inspiration for the eight year edition may have gone unnoticed by a large number of folks. Personally, I'd rather drink the Lagavulin 8 year than 16 year edition not only because I think it's a fresh and exciting whisky, I'm also quite taken by the romantic writings of Alfred Barnard, the former Harper's Weekly Gazetter employee who visited all 150 whisky distilleries in the UK during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The exploits of those escapades are documented in the book The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, a thick and weighty tome that has inspired a number of modern whiskymakers and blenders today (like my friend John Glaser who once made a Compass Box edition based on a blend outlined in the book). I keep the book at my desk at work where I often thumb through it from time to time, looking for various details from the past, hoping to spark a bit of rustic romanticism here and there.
I'm clearly not alone in those endeavors.
When Lagavulin released their 200th anniversary 8 year old edition, they did so in tribute to Alfred Barnard's visit to the distillery back in the late 1800s. As you can see in the paragraph above, he mentions having tasted an eight year old expression which he refers to as "exceptionally fine." He adds that Lagavulin is one of the few distilleries that can stand alone as a single malt (because back then everyone knew blends were better, dude!).
That's pretty much the gist of it. In releasing the eight year, Lagavulin was paying homage to some of the industry's original travel blogging. I thought it was a great idea, and I think the whisky is pretty fantastic, too. There's more smoke, more maritime character, and more lift than the sixteen year classic and it's a joyous romp from the initial sip to the flurry of peat on the finish. I also just got a bunch more of it in: