Lagavulin Talisker Comparison

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has caused a stir that’s brought up interesting discussions as to doing the “smart” versus the “right” thing, as well as thinking with one’s heart versus one’s mind, when speaking with level-headed friends in the region. I’m not going to get into that, as no matter what anyone says or does, there are bound to be some unhappy people.

These thoughts brought to mind our interactions as consumers with brands. All that marketing and sales must reach many because I think—in one way or another—we have all been compromised or corrupted by them. I’m not saying that all of us have sold out, but being exposed to people and experiences often changes one’s point of view.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t receiving “insider news,” having friends who work for the brands, or tasting special releases ways of being compromised? After all, being made to feel special is something everybody wants and appreciates, and it can change how we feel towards something or someone. Special kinds of interactions that create good memories can help sway us to think more fondly of brands, and we all know from experience that feelings can cloud your judgement.

I’m aware that it’s the big brands who usually pave the way for newer markets, and I understand that a certain amount of romance is needed to bring in new blood. Interesting stories and well-woven words attract attention. It’s absolutely smart and deplorable for brands to use our emotions in their favor; the people working for the brands aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re just doing their job, most of the time.

Because the Chinese government fucked up their cover-ups and their responsibilities, I now have to stay at home here in the to take precautions against the virus here in Manila. Given the extra time, I thought I’d have my own tea party and review three single malts from Diageo. In the place of people, I have these three bottles to keep me company. Henry David Thoreau did say he kept three chairs in his house: one for solitude. One for friendship. One for society. Bottles seem an easy substitute.

Unlike government incompetence, Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16 hold special places in my heart. These two single malts were the first peated single malts I ever had, but because I’m not willing to spend any more for these bottles, I decided to review whatever open bottles I have from their respective distilleries.

The Talisker 12 was one of the “Friends of Classic Malt” releases back in the day. This is one of 21,500 bottles and was bottled in 2012; I suppose that answers when this was released. This is another of those odd bottles I bought in Japan.

The Talisker 18 is a sample from a friend, but it’s not my first time to try this one.

The Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength seems to be from the 2011 release. I bought this locally for around $100 back in 2014. Malt reviews certainly provide a great excuse for finishing old bottles.

Talisker 12 Friends of Classic Single Malt – review

Bottled at 45.8% strength.

Color: e150.

On the nose: Very gentle initial scents of walnuts, hazelnuts, brine, peat and smoke. A sharp smell that would be similar to hints of anchovies, bacon & dry shrimp paste being seasoned with spices like cloves, anise & nutmeg. What follows are soothing mellow notes like vanilla, honey, diluted Frangelico, and something like a diluted Civet coffee (think of an extra nutty espresso coffee) and BBQ.

In the mouth: An oily mouthfeel with hints of sherry influence. A mellow chocolatey, coffee-ish & nutty vanilla honey. Here come some dates, small hints of sherry, bacon, peat and smoke. Some kombu & nori. Some hints of the front tasting parts of Port and PX vinegar accompanied by light smoke and kombu at the end.

Score: 7/10

Talisker 18 year old – review

Bottled at 45.8% strength.

Color: e150.

On the nose: Initial mellow scents of tobacco syrup, slight limoncello, orange peel oil and winter melon tea. Then the sharp ethanol scents turn up, giving off mandarin orange juice, nori, hazelnuts, almonds, caramelized nuts and mint.

In the mouth: Nutty coffee, honey, caramel, Earl Grey tea, winter melon tea, hints of dates and mint. There are hints of smoke one gets from Puer tea and hints of candles.

Score: 7/10

Lagavulin 12 year old – review

Bottled at 57.5% strength this is possibly a 2011 release.

Color: Persimmon honey.

On the nose: Sharp and lingering! This makes me think of a smoked nougat with heavy flavors of toffee, honey with hints of chocolate and latte. Some hints of nori and orange peel with muscovado sugar at the end.

In the mouth: Sharp, incoherent and commingled but lingering tastes of smoke, orange peel, latte, toffee, lavender, muscovado sugar, chestnuts and honey.

Score: 6/10


There are no indications on the label that suggest the Talisker 12 spent some time in ex-sherry casks, but it certainly does taste like it. If it didn’t, then it spent some time in wonderful ex-bourbon casks. I say this because the only other times I’ve tasted typical ex-sherry cask flavors like lots of nuts & chocolate from none ex-sherry influenced spirits are from Stitzel Weller Old Fitzgeralds and 1980s gold vein Wellers.

The Talisker 12 is a very balanced, complex & deliciously layered dram. It’s great on the nose and has a great taste. Sadly, the flavors don’t linger much. This is something I’d rather enjoy alone.

The Talisker 18 is less complex and layered than the Talisker 12. Like all the legally aged OB peated single malt Scotch I’ve tried, the peat and smoke significantly mellow down. There is a bit of smoke on the nose, but there is almost none evident in the mouth. It seems like the peat turned into the assortment of tea flavors I got.

Regardless of what happened to the peat and smoke, the lingering flavors were very welcome. I like the savory nutty characteristic of this whisky. All the flavors were very pleasant, which makes me think this will make for a very good “all-nighter” drink with friends.

I wonder if the Lagavulin 12 has been open for too long? The peat and smoke are nearly gone, uncharacteristic for a peated Islay 12 year. This is a pleasant drink if one can like cask strength whisky, though. It’s sweet and nutty, while Taliskers taste more fruity, nutty and sweet. I remember being disenchanted with this at some point, and I’ve only been using it to make Tattletale cocktails lately. Thankfully, the Taliskers make up for the disappointing “seat” of Lagavulin.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Steven Feyers says:

    I like and agree with most of your opinion. As a health care worker on the front line (anesthesia) in Michigan, I’ve been working many hours, stressed, and enjoy a good Scotch when I get home to tuck me in. I love Talisker and not to biased Laguvualin definitely has an equal position. However, Bowmore 15 is my favorite. Enjoy and keep safe/isolated. It will pass and good Scotch will always be available.
    PS: my Diageo stock will make a comeback. Hint

    1. John says:

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for commenting. I’m curious. What do you like about the Bowmore 15? I’ve had more bad experiences with OB Bowmore than good ones. I like IB Bowmores when I can find some at bars.

      Stay safe on the front lines! Cheers

    1. Jeff says:

      Official bottlings put out by the distiller and independent bottlings put out by a third party bottler who buys barrels from the distiller.

    2. John says:

      Hi Greg,
      OB = Original bottling. These are the whisky bottled by the distilleries themselves. IB = independent bottlers or bottling. These are companies who source casks from distilleries then bottle it themselves.

  2. Sujoy Broota says:

    Excellent article. Never been a great fan of Talisker.However, a diehard fan of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardberg. Wondering if you could compare Lagavulin 16 with a Laphroaig 10 and Ardberg 10.


    1. John says:

      Hi Sujoy,

      Thanks for the comment. This is something I’ll consider for the future. I just submitted a review on Ardbeg 10. I’m unwilling to pay a bottle of Laphroaig 10 and Laga 16 for now. Perhaps I’ll review them at bars when I’m able to go out again.


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