On the island of Islay, off the western coast of Scotland, sits a small distillery in Lagavulin Bay. You may have heard of it from comedian Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation, or maybe you’re hearing of it for the first time. Either way, take note: the experience at Lagavulin is nothing short of amazing.
When I say Lagavulin is the best distillery tour in Scotland, I really mean it. In fact, my husband and I agree that this tasting was our favorite memory of the TRIP. So, full disclosure, this isn’t necessarily a “tour”, but a warehouse tasting. You aren’t going to see whisky being made, but this is something much better, in my opinion.
The Lagavulin Warehouse Experience
We were originally disappointed that there were no “tours” available at Lagavulin. It’s our favorite distillery and we looked forward to seeing how the whisky was made. However, when we heard that there was a warehouse tasting where you can drink straight from the cask, we signed up immediately.
The next day, at around 10:30 am, we made our way into Warehouse No. 1. Iain McArthur was our “guide” for the morning and we sat on folding chairs surrounding 5 large whisky barrels. Iain has worked at Lagavulin for over 44 years and it’s clear that he lives and breathes whisky. It’s his passion and he loves what he does. Currently, he’s the warehouse manager, which means he’s in charge of some of the most precious stock known to mankind. Without his careful attention to detail, the world may be at a very different place in the future… a world without Lagavulin.
Lagavulin Warehouse Tasting
2016 Jazz Festival
We started off the tasting with last year’s Jazz Festival Limited Edition Whisky. This was the only whisky that we tasted from the bottle. Every other tasting came directly from the cask.
Every summer, there’s a Jazz Festival on Islay, and Lagavulin puts out a single malt scotch to commemorate the event. Like other Lagavulin malts, it’s smoky with a hint of sea salt.
We were overwhelmed with this one! So much so, in fact, that we purchased this year’s Jazz variety as a souvenir to bring home. The Jazz varieties are currently only available on Islay at the distillery.
Warehouse Cask Tastings
We then made our way through the cask strength whiskies. We started with a 5 year old and our oldest tasting was a 35 year old Lagavulin. It was really neat to not only taste the difference, but to see the difference! As the whisky aged, the color deepened. The 5 year old whisky was almost clear, and the 35 year old whisky was a deep caramel color.
Iain took us through each dram, explaining specific characteristics of the whiskies as we tasted. I really appreciated this approach because it helped me taste the notes – I’m not one who picks up on those things on my own. I’m typically more of a “it tastes like this cow was in an onion patch” kind of taster… I just bullshit my way through it.
Tasting each whisky back to back really helped me pick out the differences. In the end, I was able to taste the difference between an oak cask and sherry cask, the difference in age, and alcohol content.
I really believe that the Lagavulin Warehouse Tasting is an excellent way to teach your tastebuds how to really decipher scotch whisky. It was fun, laid back, and a very enlightening time! You can’t go wrong with whisky tastings when you’re in Scotland, but this one really seemed hand and foot above the rest. This tasting was easily my favorite experience of our trip.