The new Lagavulin Jazz 2021 Festival Release was just announced and it comes with an fascinating twist. It will be the first-ever Lagavulin finished in ex-Mezcal casks (you can read my review here). With only 3,000 bottles available, I’ve no doubt this will become a much sought-after whisky.
The Islay Jazz Festival returns for a 23rd edition this year with an online celebration starting on November 19th. Lagavulin has released a special Jazz Festival Edition for each year over the last decade. The latest Lagavulin Jazz 2021 has aged for 13 years in total, first in refill American oak barrels and finally in ex-Mezcal barrels (also made from American oak).
What Is Mezcal?
The Lagavulin Jazz 2021 Festival bottling is finished in ex-Mezcal casks. But what exactly is mezcal? Well, you could fill a book about mezcal, but I’ll try to keep it short. It is a close relative to its much better-known cousin tequila. Actually, tequila is a type of mezcal.
Mezcal is made from the agave plant. While tequila must me made from at least 51% Blue Weber Agave, mezcal can be made from a few dozen other varieties as well. Mezcal is best known for having a noticeable smoky aroma and flavour. The source of this smokiness are the earthen pits inside which the agave plants are cooked with wood and charcoal.
What Does The Lagavulin Jazz 2021 Taste Like?
According to the press release, the nose displays “unusual smoky-meaty aromas lead familiar Lagavulin linseed oil and fragrant smoke.” The single malt is bottled at a cask strength of 54.8 percent abv and “the texture is smooth and rich, the taste sweet-savoury then warming, as waves of smoke sweep over the palate carrying hints of spicy wood and smoke-dried Jalapeno pepper.”
Pierrick Guillaume, the distillery manager at Lagavulin, comments: “The Lagavulin Jazz 2021 Festival bottling has been much adored since its launch in 2011 and the annual release of the exclusive bottling for the festival has become a key moment in the whisky calendar. This year’s 13-year-old bottle is a fantastic Lagavulin expression, selected to make every whisky aficionado experience the unexpected from Lagavulin. The first Lagavulin to be finished in Mezcal casks with a distinctive and unusual flavour profile is sure to intrigue and excite Lagavulin fans and beyond.”
New Scotch Regulations
It’s only been legal to use Mezcal casks for maturation of Scotch whisky since mid-2019. That’s when the Scotch Whisky Technical File was amended. Diageo was one of the biggest proponents of these changes. Long before the actual amendments the Wall Street Journal reported Diageo had formed a ‘secret task force’ to explore changes to the strict production rules of Scotch, including ‘finishing’ whisky in casks of Don Julio Tequila, which is owned by the company.
When the amendments were finally announced by the Scotch Whisky Association, it gave guidance specifically on which casks can be used to mature or finish Scotch whisky. In practice it now means whisky producers can use a much wider variety of casks, including those previously used to aged Calvados, cachaça, shochu, baijiu, tequila and mezcal.
The Lagavulin Jazz 2021 Festival edition is not the first-ever Scotch whisky matured in ex-Mezcal casks, but there haven’t been many yet. It will go on sale on November 18th on Malts.com. The price? The Lagavulin Jazz 2021 costs £160.
I’ve reviewed a couple of previous editions of the Lagavulin Jazz Festival Release. Check out my tasting notes for the 2016 and 2017 editions.