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Lagavulin 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 20cl

€29.63 $36.37 £25.99


Tobacco, leather, fungus, rubber, light peat

Single malt Scotch whisky has generated tasting notes varied enough to put the world of wine to shame. Entire books have been published that try to do nothing but describe the taste of whiskies. This huge variation of flavour means that, if you try and condense the entire project of tasting notes to just 10 possible flavours, you will inevitably have to make some compromises. As a result, the set of flavours we have encompassed under the term “Earth” include virtually anything that is savoury or unusual, although they may not have much in common with one another. It is therefore more open to interpretation than our other flavour guides.

By “Earth” we seek to include under one umbrella all the flavours produced by light - not excessive - peat smoke: the aroma of pipe tobacco or cigar smoke, the scent of freshly dug soil, the dry smoke of a hearth fired by wood or inland peat; it may also include the distinctively savoury notes of rubber, leather or fungus that inexplicably make their way into some of the more complex single malts.

For example, peat is present in some classic favourites like Dalwhinnie or Highland Park in such small quantities that it is not at first recognisable as the same flavour that marks the peat beasts of Islay. Many of the older Lowland malts contained a thin streak of peat smoke - it remains to a certain extent in Glenkinchie, while those who are familiar with Rosebank or Littlemill will recognise a rubbery or glue-like characteristic. A medium peating level, used in many Highland or Campbeltown malts, may result in a very distinctively earthy flavour when it is lacking the saltiness that marks those of Islay: Ardmore or Blair Athol, for example, are still a good way removed from Laphroaig or Ardbeg, despite their relatively high PPM, simply because their peat source is dry and inland.

The savoury characteristic of earthy flavours goes well with the leathery or grassy side of certain cigars: the dryness may go well with a Bolivar or a Punch, while those whiskies balanced with a little sweetness might pair well with Montecristo.


Smoke, barbecue, medicine, farmyard aromas

By far the most polarising of all whisky flavours - and in some ways, that most distinctive of Scotch whisky. Peat is a type of fossil fuel, halfway between soil and coal, which produces a very aromatic smoke as it burns, and is widespread in the Scottish Highlands and islands. It has long been used to dry out malted barley in preparation for making whisky…and the aroma of the smoke lingers throughout the whole distillation process and the subsequent years of maturation.

The resulting flavour is often described as “medicinal” - associated with disinfectants such as TCP, especially by its detractors. Those who enjoy the flavour may be more likely to compare it to the scent of a barbecue, or a welcoming fireplace on a cold winter night.

Peat is almost universally associated with the Islay region - although some Islay whiskies have no peat, while many non-Islay whiskies do. As the flavour derives from the malted barley rather than the cask, it is generally more upfront in younger whiskies than in older expressions, where the cask has had more time to influence the overall style - this is why most Islay whiskies, renowned for their peaty flavours, are bottled at 10 or 12 years with relatively little spirit kept for older ages (Lagavulin is a notable exception). The most notorious of peaty whiskies is probably Laphroaig, while the crown of the “world’s peatiest whisky” is held by Bruichladdich’s Octomore series. At the other end of the scale, those flavours produced by relatively light peating levels are described by the earth flavour tag.

Because of the distinctiveness and the sheer intensity of peaty flavours, they can be difficult to pair with cigars: generally, the fuller-flavoured the cigar, the more likely it is to complement an intensely peaty whisky. In this sense, Bolivar, Partagas and certain Cohibas are safe choices. You may like to experiment a little more and try other cigars that are marked by flavours of leather, pepper or toast, however.

Dried Fruit

Raisins, figs, fruitcake, red grape, candied fruit

While flavours of fresh fruits such as apple, citrus or berries may be the result of ex-bourbon cask maturation, dried fruit flavours in single malt are almost exclusively due to extensive sherry-cask influence. Sherry casks, especially those made from European Oak (very much the minority today) lend whisky bold and robust flavours: the high acidity and lower alcohol content of sherry (in comparison to bourbon) bring out more of the flavour from the wood, giving the whisky notes of rich dried fruit and spice. In addition, the fact that sherry casks are generally larger than bourbon barrels (250 - 300 litres for a Hogshead or 500 litres for a butt, in comparison to 200 litres for a barrel) means that there is a slower maturation process: the more time the alcohol has to break down the flavour compounds present in the wood, the more oxygen becomes available to react with the spirit via oxidation; this results in more complex flavours including tobacco, spice, and a rich but sweet fig-like flavour. Raisins and fruit cake are common tasting notes, but younger (and therefore sweeter) whiskies may also present red grape, candied papaya or dried banana chips.

Due to their association with sherry casks, dried fruit flavours are most common in Speyside whiskies which make extensive use of this cask type. Many distilleries in this region have made sherry cask maturation their trademark: most notably Macallan, but also Aberlour, Glenfarclas and cult favourites Glendronach and Longmorn. The scarcity of sherry casks and legendary status of the aforementioned malts has driven up the price tag of this style, but those in the know keep close tags on where to find the best “sherry bomb” deals.

The dry, rich characteristic of this set of flavours means it pairs well with the toasty flavours present in some styles of cigar: Macallan and Cohiba, considering the prestige of each brand, are a natural couple, but dried fruit sherry bombs are also likely to pair well with the likes of Ramon Allones or Trinidad, and the leathery tang of a Montecristo is another good companion.


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A 20cl bottle of an Islay classic.

There are cat people and there are dog people; there are Islay people and there are Speyside people; more

Product Info

A 20cl bottle of an Islay classic.

There are cat people and there are dog people; there are Islay people and there are Speyside people; there are Laphroaig people and there are Lagavulin people. Perhaps I’m biased, but I believe the latter are those with more inquiring minds, more sophistication and, ultimately, better taste. Lagavulin’s signature dram, bottled at an elegant 16 years rather than the 10 or 12 years of its competitors, offers rich sherry-cask dried fruit and chocolate to offset its typically Islay peat-reek. It has the cold ashes in the hearth, the dry, twiggy heather and damp earth, and the lashing sea-salt of the crashing waves that means there is no mistaking its provenance (south coast of Islay, between Laphroaig and Ardbeg), but the deep rich amber colour betrays the astounding depth and character of a classic dram that effortlessly rises above all contenders. Supposedly, tee-totaller Johnny Depp orders a dram of this simply to nose it, and it is abundantly clear why: nothing on earth offers the same faultless combination of concentrated smoke, ash, earth, sweet, dry vanilla, ancient oloroso sherry, thick fruity figs and dates, and spicy creamy coffee. Profound and elegant; intense but delicate; inimitable and faultless.

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Robert Graham uses reputable courier services and we ship worldwide. Within the UK we aim to deliver within 2 working days. International delivery times vary depending on destination. After your purchase has been processed, you will receive an email notification with your delivery tracking number.

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Note: Regrettably we cannot ship cigars or any other tobacco products to the USA and Canada.

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