Tuesday 16 August 2022

Lagavulin 30 Year Old "Cask of Distinction" Single Cask #5403 [Tasted #581]

A month or so ago, I got word that House Welley Bar in Hong Kong (see our review here) had a pretty special bottle about to be released. I didn't get any clues as to what it was, but with bottles like a 23yo Cask of Distinction Lagavulin & a 100+ year old Cognac to their name already (or those of their founders'), I figured it would be something pretty special.

Turns out, it was...

Yep, they'd gone and bottled (along with their friends from Wu Dram Clan, HK Whisky Fellows & Kirsch Whisky) a single cask of 30 Year Old Lagavulin.

Not just any single cask of 30 Year Old Lagavulin, mind you, a Diageo Cask of Distinction Single Cask.

For those unfamiliar with the "CoD" program, you can find a little more detail here on our write-up of another excellent HK-exclusive CoD (a 35yo Clynelish). Suffice to say, these are truly rare and excellent casks, and I don't believe we've seen a 30yo Lagavulin bottled yet (a few 1991 Lagavulin casks have been bottled, but at 25-28 years old).

Diageo's CoD terminology means a "Select Cask" is a cask that underwent secondary maturation (e.g. a finish, or a vatting of casks - bottled from a single cask, but not matured entirely in that single cask) whereas "Single Cask" (what we have here) denotes the whisky maturing its entire life in a single cask - in this case, a 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Butt (interestingly, seasoned with both PX and Oloroso). 

Distilled on 4th November 1991, the whisky was bottled at 44.3% on 6th Jan 2022, yielding 318 bottles.

The whisky was released when I was in hotel quarantine, but as soon as I was free, I made a bee line for House Welley Bar. Conventional wisdom might suggest you don't start your night with a peated, sherried dram...but for this dram, the rules went out the window...

Lagavulin "Cask of Distinction" 30 Year Old Cask #5403, bottled for Hong Kong Whisky Fellows, Welley, Christoph Kirsch, Sebastien Jaeger & Boris Borissov (44.3% ABV, 30yo, Cask #5403, One of 318 bottles, Islay, Scotland, $900HKD/15mL @ House Welley Bar, Hong Kong)

Colour: Coffee copper.

Nose: Immediately intoxicating. Which is more prominent? The beautiful clean sherry (which has sweet PX hints and dryer Oloroso hints), or the subtle peat? Sometimes one, sometimes the other. There are whole oranges alongside barbecued bacon fat. It's so obviously a Lagavulin, but the most elegant and clean Laga you've ever nosed. One of those noses you just want to sit on forever. After about 15 minutes, I started getting notes of really elegant old sherry casks - dunnage warehouses and a slightly earthy mushroom note. I'm talking about notes I generally only find on recently-released, but old sherried G&M drams (whiskies in the 60-80 year old age bracket) - not "old bottle effect", but "they don't make casks like that anymore" effect.

Palate: Follows the nose, with the bacon fat, mushroom notes following through, alongside some Crème Caramel, raspberry pie (with a flamed crust), leather, citrus and always the contrasting sherry and peat notes complimenting each other beautifully. After time, there are some sweeter icing sugar on a raspberry muffin notes coming through.

Finish: Medium in length, with just a hint of oak tannins, alongside raspberries, residual campfire smoke. After some time, the sweetness of the smoke increases.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. That's a high score, but this is a deserving whisky. Just sublime. Likely to spoil you for every Lagavulin you'll drink in the future (but still...worth it).


Congratulations to Hong Kong Whisky Fellows, House Welley Bar, Christoph Kirsch, Sebastien Jaeger & Boris Borissov for bottling such a stunning CoD, and for actually ensuring bottles are opened and enjoyed by as many whisky lovers as possible (I was at the bar less than a week after the announcement, and this was already the second bottle).

For those in Hong Kong, I can highly recommend dropping into House Welley Bar to try a dram. For those in Europe, I hope some of the other bottles get opened shortly!


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