Lagavulin 16 year old

Time to correct an omission on Whisky Rover and that chasm is the Lagavulin 16 year old. It’s very much a classic malt and even if there is the odd batch variation, generally it’s a reliable dram along the likes of the Talisker 10 year old.

Perhaps I’ve taken it for granted and this site should be as much as looking back as it is looking forward when it comes to current whiskies. I was reminded of this when reviewing the Lagavulin Feis Ile 2016 18 year old bottling and the Lagavulin 8 year old 200th Anniversary release. Both good whiskies with the 18 year old being exceptional and my pick of the Feis Ile releases I’ve tasted this year. However pricing does come into play when considering Lagavulin generally. It’s something I’ve discussed within these reviews previously and this classic 16 year old release will currently set you back around £47.

Ultimately with so many other bottles on the shelves these days I find myself trying new things and dismissing the Lagavulin 16 year old. However during a recent airport trip and their travel retail range, armed with a special discount voucher, I managed to purchase this bottle for £35. Now that is a good deal and gives me the opportunity to sit down again with this classic malt.

Lagavulin is arguably the most iconic Islay whisky. Established in 1816 by John Johnston and widely linked to the desirable White Horse blended Scotch whisky from 1890 onwards, it embodies all the character of Islay. When Alfred Barnard visited Lagavulin in the 1880’s he noted the 4 warehouses on site and the support infrastructure such as a cooperage, stores, carpenter’s shop, stables for horses and cart sheds. Even then Lagavulin was prized with Barnard noting it was a pure Islay malt and held in high repute. Most of its output was destined for blends but Lagavulin was a rarity in that it was also sold as a single whisky; there are only a few of the Scotch Distilleries that turn out spirit for use as single Whiskies, and that made at Lagavulin can claim to be one of the most prominent.

An unstoppable force in the whisky realm and appreciated for centuries, we’re about to sit down with the core bottling. How does this 16 year old shape up now given I often hear fellow enthusiasts lamenting its decline for certain batches? Bottled at 43% strength and have to presume there is artificial colouring and chill filtration here as it doesn’t state otherwise. Can you imagine a cask strength, purely natural untampered Lagavulin? That’s a nirvana for another time, lets start with the 16 year old first.

Colour: dirty gold
Nose: underneath that blanket of smoke is a richness of character with a Sunday one pan fry up featuring bacon and Stornoway black pudding. A real earthy quality, blood oranges and grapefruit, not forgetting sea salt. Plenty of dirty vanilla, dark chocolate and a malted brown loaf.  
Taste: a mouthful of delicious sweet peat isn’t for everyone but Lagavulin appeals to a select audience. Robust and powerful the creaminess comes through and I’m picking out cherries, syrup, orange and beef dripping. Toasted brown bread, no make that a rich chocolate sponge and roasted chestnuts.

Overall: after my criticism of the 8 year old, I’m pleased that the 16yo offers a greater experience for less outlay. Sometimes we can chase the special editions and limited releases and in doing so lose sight of what’s in front of us. In the case of the Lagavulin 16; it’s a high benchmark for a core expression.


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