While digging through my family liquor cabinet last week (hey I’m not an alcoholic!), I noticed two noble looking bottle packages down inside. Oban 14 and Lagavulin 16! Do we have two such top-notch malts and nobody told me?! What an amazing discovery!
As you might know, there are three categories of Scotch: malt, grain and blended whisky. Blended whisky (Johnnie Walker, Ballantine’s, J&B, etc.) is a mixture of 1/3 single malt and 2/3 grain whiskies from several distilleries. The wide success of those international brands is probably due to the common compliance of their conformed tastes. Sadly, the less distinctive, the more successful. Grain whisky is made from a mash of cereal grains (usually malted and unmated barley, wheat and maize). There are not so many different grain distilleries. Indeed bottled grain whisky is still a bit of an odd choice! Finally malt whisky is made from 100% malted barley. Malts are divided in single (no blends) and vetted (blends of malts). Lagavulin and Oban are two out of six so-called ‘Classic Malts’ marketed since 1988 by Diageo. The other four are Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, Talisker e Glenkinchie.
16 years old Lagavulin is made on Islay, “the Queen of the Hebrides”. Its rubbish color is warm like its taste. When you nose it, you get scent of leather and wood on fire. The taste is way smokey but gentle and sweet, like an old cask cellar in winter or a mild cigar’s aroma. Smooth peaty tones return in the end. Unfortunately the design of the bottle suggests that it was realized after 1999 (the royal seal has been replaced with a sailing ship drawing on the label). I was told that the late 1980’s batches were the best. Anyway, that dram of Lagavulin has been a revelation for me being used to bourbon. Now I am curious to try out Oban. I will report my impressions here later.