Every time I pour a glass of Lagavulin 16 I have an urge to narrate a story that starts with the line “It was a dark and stormy night…” while nestled in a large, overstuffed, leather chair next to a roaring fire. Rumored to have been copied from Laphroaig in the 1800’s, it’s a heavy inky oily dram that has an attitude all it’s own even. Being one of the Classic Single Malts of Scotland it represents the style of Islay which is known for it’s deeply peated (smoky) scotches with hints of iodine and brine from the island’s peat. This aspect is what lead some Islay Scotches (Laphroaig in particular) to be imported during prohibition as medicine and gives it that pensive, almost foreboding feeling.
The name Lagavulin is basically the English warping of the Gaelic lag a’mhuilin, which means “hollow by the mill”. Official records show that there was illicit distillation on the site of what is now the Lagavulin Distillery since 1742, but the actual Lagavulin distillery itself wasn’t started until 1816. It is also the preferred Scotch of one Mr. Ron Swanson (and the actor Nick Offerman) who is often seen with bottles of the 16 and the 12 on the show. It is also the favored Scotch of Scottish actor Brian Cox.
Overall I love the Lagavulin 16 with all my liver. I willingly concede that heavily peated scotches like this are an acquired taste, but once you acquire that taste it doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to basic offerings. There are a host of bold sweet, savory and smoky flavors that can really give your palate a workout. It’s the kind of whisky that can easily take up a half hour or more of your time as you meditate through it. That same bold and flavorful character also makes it very easy to let the peat and malt wash over you and just relax after a long day. It’s a truly fantastic dram.
If you’ve had the stunning Lagavulin 16 add your own comments or notes below.
Lagavulin 16 Review
Rich caramel with orange facets.
Caramel and peat arrive at the scene first and threaten to take over but stop just short of domination. Orange zest, smoked meat, iodine, brine and some crisp red apples orbit the dense caramel and peat core. Overall there is a slight medicinal / novocain quality to the whole aroma that is more intriguing than it is off putting.
Peaty upfront with that same iodine meets novocain quality hanging around. Burnt orange glaze, ash malt, subtle toffee, coffee cake, cinnamon and something a little hard to explain swims in the murky orange caramel depths. It’s like a vanilla mint pepper combo that adds a punchy sweetness.
Oily and coating it’s a smooth and relaxing dram.
Smoky malt fades to smoky oak fades to smoke for a long and savory finish.