Lagavulin 2019 Distillers Edition vs Distillery Exclusive

Since the subject of this post may be a little confusing, let me try and explain. The first bottle, the 2006 Distillers Edition, is part of Diageo’s series where they take on their distilleries’ single malts and finish them in different casks to showcase “new perspectives on these well-loved drams.” This bottle is still available over the counter [albeit from the more recent years]. The second, the Distillery Exclusive, is something you can only buy or taste [as was the case with me] at the distillery itself. You can’t order that one online – you have to be there. Regrettably, I didn’t buy a bottle [I know, I’m kicking myself now – I think I carried out others from their shop], but managed to swindle a few 30ml drams from the tasting, and that is what I am writing about now. So let’s kick-off, but first, music! Now playing: LandtitlesYour Voice In Pieces.

Admittedly, when I first saw this bottle, I thought it to be more of a gimmick. The concept behind this series by Diageo is simple – take a flagship whisky and finish it off in another, sweeter, preferably wine-based cask. For example, the Talisker was double matured in ex-bodega Oloroso casks, the Oban in ex-bodega Montilla Fino casks, and the Caol Ila in ex-bodega Moscatel cask. The term “double-matured” here is very similar to Balvenie’s DoubleWood, but essentially it means that the whisky spent a few more years in another barrel. In the case of Lagavulin, it was distilled in 2003 and bottled in 2019, which makes it a 16-year-old whisky, albeit I can’t tell how long it spent in Pedro Ximénez Sherry casks. It could be a 14-year-old Lagavulin plus 2 years in PX, or it could be the “standard” 16-year-old finished off in PX-seasoned casks for just a couple of months. Either way, the PX notes are definitely there, adding a beautiful sweetness and roundness to one of my favourite peaty whiskies. And, going back to my opening statement, although at first, I was a little apprehensive, I must confess that it is one of my favourite single malts these days. Also, take note that every year this particular bottle may be a little different on the palate. The batch number for each is displayed on the label [mine is “lgv. 4/508”]. Some true collectors and die-hard connoisseurs swear by the earlier editions.

Now the Distillery Exclusive bottling is something else entirely. First of all, unlike the mass-produced Distillers Edition, which is bottled at 43% and sold pretty much everywhere for something like £85, the unique and very much exclusive bottle is only available directly on-site, somewhere around £150, and at 53.5% [and up, depending on the year] ABV. As part of my earlier admission, I’ve tried this at the distillery’s tasting, and, if I remember correctly, it was the fifth and final dram [after a 9-year, a 13-year, a 16-year, and the above Distillers Edition]. By then, I was already nice and toasty [which is why on this site, I only pair two drams], and I wasn’t that impressed with what I’ve tasted, again, relative to the above, and the high alcohol content that hit me at the very end. However, having brought back a sample in a tiny bottle and having [accidentally] some alcohol evaporated from this pour in six months, this ex-bourbon refill and renewed cask single malt is now sweeter and a lot smoother than I seem to remember. It almost has a sherry-finish taste, but I would like to write that off to a condensed and viscous liquid [I would say about 10-15% is gone from the sample]. I can’t recall the age of whisky in the bottle either, and so I am left a bit perplexed about where to slot this on the list.

To be honest, I’m not giving out a lot of detail about the Distillery Exclusive bottling in this writeup, and when I finished tasting [and researching] I was going to scrap this paired match altogether. But I have tasted the above nevertheless, and so I feel compelled to document the process. As a result, unless I have a chance to drink Distillery Exclusive one more time, I’m leaning heavily towards the other bottle – the more accessible and always present on my shelves. With that, I’ll say that the Distiller’s Edition wins this round.

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