The first time I tasted Lagavulin 16 was from my father-in-law’s cabinet. I was new to Scotch, and recoiled at its peat reek and medicinal assault on my naive palate. Of course I went back the next evening for more; soon that blessed bottle was empty.
I’ve tried a lot of Scotch since, a wide assortment of new experiences and flavors courtesy of my brother-in-law Dave, but Lagavulin still feels like home. It’s also gotten much more expensive lately, which is why Dave and I were intrigued when he first brought home Lagavulin 8. For half the price (in our neck of the woods – I know it’s all over the place), the 8 packs in most of what makes its older sibling so memorable. The ABV is higher and it’s not as refined, but the price point makes it possible to get reasonably close to one of my favorite tastes…then it disappeared.
Dave and I both kept a lookout for new stock of Lagavulin 8 in our local shops but to no avail. Was it that popular? In the meantime, Dave brought home a bottle of Ardbeg Wee Beastie (“Guaranteed 5 Years Old”). My initial reaction was, “it’s pretty thin.” Then began one of the longest, strangest finishes of any Scotch I’ve tried. The smoke lingered and stayed and persevered. It brought me back to the 99-cent cigars my friend Padraic and I smoked in high school under the bridge next to the Barge Canal. Of course I went back for more – Wee Beastie indeed.
I bought another bottle of the Ardbeg and then Dave surprised me with a bottle of Lagavulin 8. It’s been fun to pitch them against each other – hot young punks, distilled just a mile apart on the Isle of Islay. The 8 is smoother, sweeter and more refined (in this company); on the other hand, Wee Beastie punches way above its weight – it’s grown on me like few other Scotches. Both are great next-level drams at a reasonable price point. I’m calling it a draw.