Lagavulin 16 Review

Lagavulin 16 Review

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

ABV: 43%
Price: $66
Distiller: Lagavulin

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.

SCORE: 95/100


Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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40 Responses to Lagavulin 16 Review

  1. My dad was kind enough to buy me a 1.5oz dram of this at a nice bar and it was quite nice. In fact I think they may have been underselling it for the price paid.

    Perhaps I’m just to much of a Laphroaig fan to give this its due but frankly a bottle of Lagavulin 16 sells for $130 before tax in my area while Laphroaig Quarter Cask (my personal favorite) can be had for $60 after tax. Laga 16 is certainly formidable and I enjoyed it thoroughly but I won’t be moved to pay for it outside of that bar setting I was in.

      • Laga 16 is above the $100 mark in my neck of the woods also.. but state store doesnt carry it.. Only found it in private owned store. At that price, only take a sip every few months .. make it last!!! lol.. enjoy reading the reviews.. gives a lot of good info for this novice.

  2. I’ve had great bottles of this, but others have been mediocre (and one poor). Prefer the 12, which I consider a top whisky under $100. Also, the variation has been much less than with the 16.

    • I really enjoy the 12, but can’t get it for under $100 here. Most shops around here carry it for about $110 – $130. Even seen it for $150 at a couple of pricier shops.

  3. My favorite scotch. I worked in professional kitchens for 15 years, ending as chef, and this one has flavor like no other. To me, Laphroaig is too overwhelmingly smoke with not enough other flavors, but any of the Lagavulins just hit something in me that is a perfect scotch.

    Not that that’s what I want to drink every time. But damn it is good.

  4. I recently gifted a bottle to myself for my birthday only to get home and see another gift wrapped for me from the wife (we didn’t exactly communicate well on this one). I’ve never been less disappointed to have accidentally spent an extra $80 on something I already owned-best mistake I’ve ever made. It really is THAT good.

  5. By far my favorite heavily peated whisky. IMHO peated whisky doesn’t need to have significantly higher abv to be good (I find the 43% abv that we have with Lagavulin 16 yr to be perfect).

  6. Dear Mate,

    I want to mail my whisky journey to your email and all my wine tasting from Australia.

    Please send me your email thank you.

    Kind regards,

  7. Whilst I hate the Laphroaig Quarter Cask with a Passion, I absaloodle love the Lagavulin 16 year old. It is normally between $75 – $95 a bottle but occasionally comes on special.

    Yesterday it was offered for $67 and I jumped on it without hesitation.

    Less peaty but also a very nice dram is Tomintoul with a Peaty Tang. can be had for as little as $42 for a 700mL bottle

  8. Had an opportunity to try this at a friend’s holiday party – he typically lays out 4-5 options from his Scotch collection. I’m in the early stages of learning and enjoying Scotch and I thought this was outstanding. My previous experience with Islay has been Johnny Walker Double Black, so this was a serious step up. Absolutely wonderful dark and smoky nose and taste, and hope to get a bottle of my own soon. I hadn’t read any reviews prior to trying it, so I’m pleased to see it get such a strong rating in accordance with my own first taste.

  9. It took me 3 Glencairns to get use to the 16, coming from a bourbon palette but after that night I found that bottle calling me! I had to hide it so I wouldn’t drink it all in a week. at $105/bottle in Virginia it has to be saved for special occasions in my house. Now to try the 12!

  10. My brother who lives in London brought a bottle of this over via duty free last time he visited, and I shamelessly went to town on it. Simply put, it’s amazing. Looking at your grading scale, I can’t imagine what the next tier up from here is, as if there is another level. I suppose it could exist, but I won’t believe until I reach it.

  11. I forgot to add a coda to this story. I was in Phoenix for work about a week later, and I stumbled upon an Irish pub that had a 50′ long shelf of whisk(e)y. I ordered a round of the Lagavulin for me and my buddy, and they were ten bucks apiece (!!!). I was expecting something a lot higher.

    In your review, you mention how this is a sipper that can take a half hour or more. Absolutely correct. We were far enough into our evening that this was a sixty minute affair. It’s really that good.

  12. A downright amazing single malt. Beautifully blended between the peat, meat, sweet, and ocean.

    I collect single malts and occasionally venture to Irish or American. But this single malt is my #1. Love it.

  13. Finally got me a bottle of this and it’s excellent. One of, if not the best whiskies I’ve tried. Full of peat, yet it oddly isn’t overwhelming. Sign of a masterfully made whiskey for sure. Very complex drink, yet smooth. If it were cheaper, it would be a mainstay in my liquor cabinet. That’s really saying something because I mostly drink bourbon.

  14. Reading your notes I wonder what I have gotten myself into. I began my tour of the taste buds in the highlands, working my way south and west. My financial group keeps me in the 16 strata. I have not purchased anything other than an Islay in the past and do not intend to travel out of the region. Now I have a little idea as what to expect. So now I guess its “cheers”.I’ll let you know what I think of the Lag 16.

  15. Costs $91+tax here in PA. and i’ve yet to try it. I end up getting Laph10 which is $50+tax. How much ‘better’ or more revelatory is Laga16 ?

    • Hey Alan, Compared to the current Lap 10 I’d say the Lag 16 is several points higher. The $91+ tax is rough, I can get it for about $80 all-in here in LA so it’s a tougher call at about $20 more, but if you haven’t had it order a glass at the bar and see how you like it. Might be worth it to you, might not be.


  16. Wherever I go I try new whiskies. Haven’t tried anything that beats the Lagavulin 16. As one whisky reviewer puts heavily peated scotch, “If you line up 10 people, 9 will say ‘no, not for me,’ but the last will say, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for.'” Lagavulin 16 is what made that last person.

  17. One of the few you are surprised and pleased to find under your tongue a good 15 minutes after the last sip. ‘nough said by my humble reckoning.

  18. A note on pricing (which may have already been addressed) – I live in Buffalo and recently made a quick trip across the border (to get some Chinese food in Canada…). I had been meaning to buy a bottle of scotch as a gift for a friend and stopped at the Duty Free store – $53 USD for a bottle of Laga 16. If you’re not close to an international border, most large international airports also have Duty Free stores.

  19. Tasting this I got Deli meats particularly, pastrami. Gorgeous stuff. I was using my nose sitting down to this and realised a considerable amount of time had passed before I had even tasted it! I drunk and the glass didnt last long because it was simply the nicest whisky I have ever had! Gonna be setting up a cheese board as this is meant to be the perfect food pairing. Just Wow!

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