Whisky: Lagavulin 16 years
In times gone by, chancellors of the Exchequer used to indulge in a tipple or two to keep them going while presenting their Budgets. Disraeli drank brandy and water, while Gladstone had sherry and beaten egg – a cocktail that, thankfully, never caught on. In later years, Nigel Lawson sipped a Spritzer, while Ken Clark swigged Scotch.
Sadly, Gordon Brown stopped this fine tradition, and mineral water is now the standard Budgetary whistle-wetter. That said, tough times require tough solutions, so perhaps today’s chancellor should turn to a sturdier tipple – and there ain’t much that’s sturdier than Lagavulin (though to be fair, it’s less of a solution and more of a solvent). Certainly, it’s a scotch suited to politicians in need of some fire in their bellies. Just a sniff of this Islay – a region renowned for its intense potions – gets the blood flowing.
Without added water, it looks like ochre and smells like creosote – with a pungent, alcoholic burn. The taste, meanwhile, is a strong, slightly sour flavour that stings mightily, building and burning and never seeming to mellow. It has an intense smokiness that brings to mind a forest fire.
Quite clearly, this is a Scotch that needs a little spring water to bring out its better side. Lagavulin is never going to be delicate but it does become more balanced with water, with a deep, rich smell of peat smoke, hints of dark chocolate, and flavours of rich fruit loaf, tobacco, lime and greenery. There’s still a rush of flame as you take a sip – and you can’t help but gasp for breath – but it eventually softens and cools into ever so long-lasting embers.
Lagavulin isn’t a beginner’s malt, but it’s a tough, reliable, roguish friend that won’t let you down. Just don’t add egg. ?