View Full Version : Local malt shortages?

08-12-2003, 13:42
I'm sure many of you have heard the scuttlebutt about mid-1980's production being low, which supposedly has impacted availability of certain malts. The only one I've personally experienced is the disappearance of Lagavulin 16yo, but now there's supposedly a shortage of Oban.

Have any of you noticed shortages?

08-12-2003, 15:03
I have heard via the discussion forum at www.whiskymag.com (http://www.whiskymag.com) that there is in fact a shortage of Lagavulin. The 16 year old is apparently disappearing, to be replaced by a 12 year old version (which was available years back before the 16 year expression took off in popularity). Oban may have been mentioned too, I refer interested readers to the forum for further discussion.

Some single malts may henceforth become vatted (combinations of malts from different distilleries).

It appears indeed that 1980's production was not as high as required to meet the present demand.

This sounds a bit discouraging but on the other hand, never before has there been such a variety of malts on the market, especially if one factors in the bottlings of the independent merchants. The whisky business, in the U.K. as here, faces challenges in always predicting correctly the ebb and flow of supply and demand. But as I say, the restricted supply or availabality of one malt should not be a major concern: others will always be available. If Lagavulin 16 year old in fact becomes unavailable and the 12 year version fails to please, I counsel people to buy Ardbeg, or Laphroig, or (a great value) Talisker. Talisker to my taste, despite being a rich peaty drink, reminds me of fine American straight whiskeys of medium but smoky palate, say the older Virginia Gentleman, or Russell's Reserve or Kentucky Spirit.

The bridge to Scotch whisky from Western Pennsylvania (where U.S. whiskey started) is very long indeed at this point, but one can still make the crossing with special equipment. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif


08-12-2003, 16:08
Some single malts may henceforth become vatted (combinations of malts from different distilleries).

Are you saying this is a side-effect of underproduction (eg. there are stocks of a certain malt of a certain age, but not enough for a bottling run, so they use it in blends/vatted malts instead)? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif

08-12-2003, 17:11
Yes, precisely. Cardhu will, according to Whisky Magazine, issue 33 (current issue) become a vatted malt. No doubt others will follow..


08-13-2003, 05:11
Lagavulin is not the only one of the "Classic Malts" that apparently is in short supply. Talisker and Cragganmore disappeared from store shelves here (PA) months ago, and the vendor says they don't expect a shipment of those until next year http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif. Also, I believe the new Lagavulin 12yo is a cask strength bottling, and reportedly is very good.


08-13-2003, 06:35

I for one will be on the look-out for the Cask Strength Lagavulin. I bet that would be one fine dram! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif


08-13-2003, 06:41
In addition to Gary's fine suggestions, I'd like to add a few more favorites for your consideration. Bowmore, Bruichladdich, The Macallan, Springbank, Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Highland Park are all excellent and offer different taste profiles as well as price ranges. While there are shortages of some favorites, it gives us an opportunity to try other things that we might not have tried otherwise. The journey continues... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif


08-13-2003, 12:05
I think I'll ask for it the next time I'm at a full-line liqour store.

Just to be mischievous, I'll ask for "that new, barrel-proof Lagavulin bottling". http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

08-13-2003, 17:03
Just to be mischievous, I'll ask for "that new, barrel-proof Lagavulin bottling". http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

I endorse that idea heartily. You are welcome to use me as a reference! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif

08-13-2003, 18:29
Unfortunately the CS Lagavulin will not be brought in to the US anytime soon, but the Signatory UnChillfiltered Laphroaig is in the US and should satisfy any peaty cravings. Also if you can get hold of the CS Laphroaig from anyone going through duty-free, it is well worth it.

08-15-2003, 22:02
I have a bottle of The Lagavulin 12 CS. Although a bit expensive, it is very good. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif It may not meet the needs of people who love the standard 16yo because it does not have the same flavor profile. It does seem to have any sherry casks in the bottling.

08-16-2003, 03:42
Where did you get the CS? Is it available in the States? Could you explain a bit about its flavor profile?


08-17-2003, 18:56
I ordered it from "thewhiskyexchange.com" It is very good if you are fond of strong peaty drams. It does not taste too young even if you are used to the Lagavulin 16, but again because it does not seem to have any sherry influence, it does not strike me as within the standard Lagavulin profile. I've also got the DE which is Xemenez finished and about 20yo and is very good and more true to the profile. The 25yo CS is also great and more typical for Lagavulin but it's pricey.

02-03-2004, 20:02
Just bringing forward Blackeno's notes from a while back about Lagavulin, the great single malt scotch from Islay region off the western coast of Scotland. As was stated, the 16 year old seems to be disappearing from the market due to a shortage. A 12 year old is appearing to supplant it, which I have not seen yet in Ontario. The 16 year old, as well as the sherry cask special version (Distiller's Edition), are almost gone now from the Liquor Commission of Ontario, but the odd bottle can be found and many restaurants still stock the regular 16 year old.

Tonight I had a one ounce dram of the regular 16 year old at the Bow & Arrow on Yonge Street, part of a small chain of pubs which focus on craft beers.

This struck me, and I am saying this in full knowledge of addressing a bourbon audience, as probably the finest whisky I have ever had in my life. It was very rich and malty in taste with a huge smoky flavour and nose. It had an unparalled smoothness (that much abused term) yet a huge complex flavour that went on forever. It surely was the kind of whisky that originally made the reputation of scotch across Scotland, and then in Britain and around the world mostly through the great blends such as Johnnie Walker (I believe those blends had more character before 1950, were more in the line of what this Lagavulin is like).

I believe anyone who appreciates fine drink would enjoy this whisky once explained (should that be necessary) the coordinates, as it were. There are bourbons that, in their category, are almost as good, e.g. Birthday Bourbon, Kentucky Spirit. It does no injustice to these very fine bourbons to say Lagavulin 16 year old sets a daunting standard to meet, however.

If anyone sees Lagavulin 16 year old, not so much the Distiller's Edition (where the sherry casking alters the basic character) but the regular one, and can spare the brass (circa $90 (CAN)), I'd say go for it. It is an example of whisky at just about the best it can be and is THE foreign standard against which to judge and appreciate Kentucky's best. Not that the best American whiskey will (or should) ever taste the same but in the sense of how good the luxury end of the spectrum can be for a given style.


02-04-2004, 10:13

I agree with you that Lagavulin 16 YO is one of the finest single malts out there. It is the one that initially got me interested in single malts. I recently saw a bottle in a Queens NY liquor store, and grabbed it for about $40. A few years ago, my wife and I visited Canada, and stopped at the border store before returing to the US, and I bought a bottle for about $30 US. I wish I'd been able to buy more! As I've said elsewhere, my favorite style of Single Malt Scotch is the very peaty Islay style. Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Laphroaig are at the top of the list. About one year ago, I had the opportunity to try Bruichladdich and although it is from Islay, it doesn't have as much of the peat "punch" as the others. That said, it has become one of my favorites. I tried the 1970 bottling at the 2002 WhiskyFest in NY, and it was superb. Unfortunately, it goes for over $200 a bottle.

I have come to realize that I can not compare Single Malts with Bourbon. To me, its like comparing apples and oranges...both are good, but they are different. So, I can't say that Lagavulin is the finest whisky, or even the finest Single Malt. But, I can say that it is an excellent Single Malt. As Gary said, if you like a good single malt and see the Lagavulin 16 YO, give it a try. You won't regret it.


02-04-2004, 11:25
Thanks for these comments. The price in Canada was low a few years ago but went up when the shortages began. I know the Distiller's Edition of Lagavulin was selling here for an even 100 dollars (Can.) and the regular 16 year old was sold for less but not all that much less, I think around 70 dollars or so.

I agree bourbon and scotch are apples and oranges, but I meant the comparison in the sense of how far down the quality spectrum one can go in both categories, and I think in scotch one can go further. Putting it a different way, Lagavulin is much better than most not-very-peated Speyside malts whereas the best bourbons are not that far ahead from the norm in the bourbon world. Kentucky Spirit is great but not as far ahead from, say, WT 101 (or Buffalo Trace) as Lag is from the other malts. This is just an impression and (as everyone knows) I enjoy fine bourbon very much.


02-04-2004, 12:14
I agree regarding the quality variation in Scotch vs. bourbon. Although there are exceptional bourbons, and some that are not good at all, most seem to enjoy a nice middle ground. There's also more similiarity in their basic flavors. Single Malts have quite a variety of regional differences and as you say, quality differences within the regions.

I would also say that I'm amazed at the differences between the the prices of bourbon & single malts. We are very lucky to have access to such superb bourbons at reasonable prices. The prices for single malts has gotten so insane, that I rarely buy it anymore. Much of it is way too expensive.


02-04-2004, 13:21
Absolutely. From a price point of view, bourbon is an excellent value, a much better value than scotch (generally speaking). But as you say it shows less variation than scotch, at least today. I believe at one time bourbon, and rye in Maryland and Pennsylvania, showed a similar variation, but that aspect of U.S. whiskey has faded with continuing consolidation in the industry. Actually, that is happening in Scotland too. The number of working distilleries is much lower than it was a generation ago, even factoring in the cyclical changes all liquor industries go through. Still, there continues from Scotland to be sold a broad range of whiskies that are regional-based and exhibit in some cases differences within the regions.

I hope microdistillers in the U.S. return to the industry the variety that surely must have existed at one time in straight whiskey in America. It remains to be seen if this will occur. For it to be successful, the product must be sold on heritage and quality and not just on price, otherwise the big producers will beat the little guys on price or distribution or both. Maker's Mark provides the template much like Anchor Steam Brewery did on the West Coast and beyond in microbrewing. The difference is Anchor Steam crucially acted as a catalyst, whereas Maker's Mark did not (no doubt pleasing Bill Samuels and Pernod Ricard because MM has maintained its place in the "craft bourbon" sun). But distilling and beer brewing are, or can be, very different businesses. President Nixon allowed grain exports to the former Soviet Union in the early 1970's, which spiked grain prices. This didn't hurt Anchor Steam or the other emerging beer micros but it harmed fatally many small distilleries in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky; that precluded any resurgence of new blood, of course. I should add that George Dickel's renaissance in the late 1950's provided another welcome example of a new distillery succedding, but apart from Maker's and that case I know of no others post-1950. Michter's started up again in about '54 but it closed in the early 1980's, a real shame considering the whiskey heritage it represented and truly fine whiskey it made.


02-04-2004, 15:29
Thank you....I was trying to make this same point about price/ratio on another thread but was apparently not understood.

02-04-2004, 16:09
Thank you....I was trying to make this same point about price/ratio on another thread but was apparently not understood.

What's there to misunderstand? And sorry if my reply in that thread seemed gruff (that wasn't the intent!) You were discussing how it's foolish to spend more money for higher quality whiskies because those few extra points aren't worth it. My whole point was that you aren't entirely correct.

Do you drive a luxury car? If you do, it's because you were willing to invest the extra money and appreciate the extra features, engineering, power and (maybe) quality. It wasn't because the higher-end car was a better bargain. If you DON'T drive a luxury car, do you shake your head in disgust when that nice BMW passes by?

Taking this back on topic, Lagavulin 16 is the Bentley of Scotches. And it's back on the shelf locally, albeit at a higher price than I've ever seen.

02-04-2004, 21:22
Wow, $40 -- a steal! The store where I work sold one that had been on the shelf awhile for $60 a couple of months back (we don't have a big Scotch clientele, so we only stock one or two of most single-malt items). It took a couple of months for the distributor to come up with a replacement -- at $75 retail. That one sold, too. Now we're told there is no time frame for another replacement, if ever.

02-18-2004, 12:42
Well, Macallan 15 is gone. Macallan 18 no longer has the
vintage year stated. Ardbeg 17 , gone. All due to the
economic conditions of the early to mid 80's. The
distilleries certainly underestimated the future demand,
but most likely were strapped for cash and unable to risk overproduction.
Now they are being replaced by the cask strengths,with no age statement,and other specialty vintages.Just look at the Macallans, Aberlours, Bruichladdichs, Glenlivets, etc.

There are numerous independent bottlers that have some interesting products. Murray-Mcdavid and Compass Box are two that produce some nice single malts amd vatted
whiskies, respectively.