Posts Tagged ‘Lagavulin 16 review’


Following on my last post, a comparison of Feis Ile Laphroaig samples from whiskysamples.eu, I’m now comparing two cask strength Lagavulin samples. First up is a 1994/2010 for Feis Ile, bottled at 52.7%. There were only 528 total bottles in this release, and it’s coming from European Oak ex sherry casks.

Next, we have a No Age Statement (NAS) release, bottled in 2010, that is only available at the distillery. The 6,000 bottle run comes from casks that had been tagged to be part of the Distiller’s Edition release, but according to Ruben at WhiskyNotes.be, they were too good for that general release vatting. He also states that they have been extra matured in sherry-seasoned American oak.

I compared both of these CS special releases with my bottles of standard Lagavulin 16 (2009) and Lagavulin DE (1991/2007).

Tasting Notes

Let’s start with the standard bottlings for reference…

Lagavulin 16 (2009) 43% – A nose you can get lost in. Fruit that starts as apples, then turns into dried red fruits, like there are some sherry casks involved. This is combined with sweet peat and iodine, and a subtle (for an Islay) smokiness that envelops the whole thing. Magical. The palate is thick and rich, and sweeter than the nose lets on. On the finish, peat and coal smoke galore, with a sweetness lingering on the tongue. My 2006 bottle had more caramel, to the point where it almost got in the way at the end. This 2009 bottling is more balanced. A true classic. 92 points.

Lagavulin DE (1991-2007) 43% – Another nose to sit with and take in for a long time. It has “in your face” sherry influences. The fruits are darker than the 16 year…dried fruits and over-ripe berries. Still medicinal and peaty. Neither of these standard Lagavulins have as much tar and coal smoke on the nose as younger Laphroaig and Ardbeg expressions, but it’s there in the background. Big, juicy, fruity peat on the palate. Then, on the finish, an explosion of earthy peat smoke takes over in the back of the nostrils, bouncing off of and mixing with the fruit on the tongue. Compared to the 16 year, this is equally captivating, but different. One of each, please! 92 points.

Lagavulin 1994/2010 for Feis Ile (52.7%) – The nose seems a little muted (compared to Laga 16 and DE). I’m getting sherry sweetness and peat, but also a fair amount of wood influence, with some cedar and vanilla (like a Laphroaig). The fruit flavors fall between Laga 16 and DE, but closer to the 16. There’s less iodine here and more coal smoke and tar. On the palate…wow! What a party on the tongue this expression is! Big impact, without being harsh. Great peppery spices. Heading into the finish, it starts to dry the tongue, but then suddenly the mouth waters. A different kind of Lagavulin magic! 92 points.

Lagavulin NAS 2010 Distillery Only (52.5%) – The nose is similar to the Feis Ile bottling in many ways. The fruits are darker, with a stronger red berry presence. It’s also a little sweeter. Similar on the palate and finish as well, but not quite as “magical.” It doesn’t have quite that same drying/watering combination on the tongue. Excellent, none-the-less, with great impact and a long finish. I would certainly buy a bottle given the chance. 91 points.

Comparison Notes

It seems like the Feis Ile expression is kind of a cask strength representation of the standard Laga 16, and the Distillery Only a stronger DE. When comparing all four together, the palate/finish stands out as being more impressive in the special edition bottlings.

Here’s the thing, though…when drinking Laga 16 and DE on their own, they don’t lack for presence on the palate, and the finish is long and brilliant. The standard bottlings also offer an improved experience on the nose (for me, anyway). The stronger alcohol in the cask strength offerings prevents me from really digging my nose in and getting lost in the aromas.

Perhaps there’s a magic combination of whisky and water that preserves the magic on the palate and brings out the aromas of the nose with these special releases. I didn’t have a large enough sample to experiment in this way, though. Therefore, I consider all of these whiskies to be on fairly equal footing. That being said, if you’re more about the palate/finish than the nose, I think the Feis Ile release shoots ahead of the others.

Other Opinions

As with the Laphroaig Feis Ile releases, you can find great notes at both whiskyfun.com and WhiskyNotes.be:

My friend Gal, over at whiskyisrael.co.il, also got a sample of the Distillery Only bottling. He really liked it, but perhaps enjoys the standard DE a little more. Hey…same conclusion! 🙂


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Lagavulin 16 (2009)

I think this is my first repeat review, but I’m going to change my rating on this one, so I wanted to write about it again. I’m talking about Lagavulin 16 (43% abv), this one bottled in 2009. This expression is surely matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks, but I can’t find any concrete description of their “recipe” like HP provides for their various expressions. My previous Laga 16 review was based on a 200ml bottle from 2006 that came with my Islay Collection pack. The price of this well known Islay single malt has dropped at the local big box liquor store (in AZ) from $80 to $70, more in line with California pricing. I hope it stays that way!

Tasting notes

Lagavulin 16 (OB); 43%; Bottled 2009

Nose: Great balance of peat smoke and sherry fruits/sweetness. The sherry isn’t strong, hinting at mixed cask maturation, but the overall effect is a rich one. It’s smoky, but not quite the camp fire you get with Ardbeg. There’s oak, but not in your face like Laphroaig QC. Definitely some iodine involved in the mix as well.
Palate: A rich, creamy mouth feel with a pleasant drying sensation and a bit of subtle spice. All parts of the tongue are involved in the experience. It could be stronger, though, with more spiciness. I think it would border on perfection if they could infuse a Talisker-like pepper and bottle it at 46-48%.
Finish: Very long, with continued drying on the tongue, along with some sweetness. Peat smoke and dried fruits linger perfectly in the back of the nostrils.

Comments: I’ve probably tried 50 additional whisky expressions since I first had Lagavulin 16. I still haven’t found a better “standard” expression, and only a couple of the premium bottlings I’ve had can equal or beat Lagavulin 16 (for my tastes). I know there are still a LOT of whiskies out there to try, but no matter what I discover in the future, this one will stand as an amazingly balanced and rewarding dram. Sure, I’d like to see it bottled at a little higher ABV, but I’m not sure they can afford to do this. It might be too good of a core expression! What would they do for an encore?

I put this right below Laphroaig 30 and HP 30, with this one being a much better value.


  • Score: 92/100 (A)
  • Bottom Line: Amazing balance and grace for a smoky, medicinal Islay malt. One of the very best.
  • Score higher if: Well, 92 points is pretty high. You’re just going to have to try it and see if it’s “special” to you.
  • Score lower if: 43% just doesn’t cut it for you anymore; you prefer a more ashy/tarry peat in your Islay malt.
  • Value: Not cheap at $65-$90, but I have no problem with the price, as I think this tops all of the 18 year malts I’ve tried in the same price range.


I compared this new 2009 bottle to the end of my 2006 Laga 16 bottle. They’re very similar, but I felt like there was a little bit of additional toffee sweetness in the 2006 version. Both on the nose and the finish. I think it was because of this that the smoke and dried fruits seemed a little more muted on the nose in the 2006 bottling. I also tried a little bit of Laphroaig Triple Wood next to the two Laga 16 drams. I really like the Laphroaig, but the sherry cask finishing just doesn’t provide quite the same level of integration and balance that the Lagavulin 16 offers.

I would compare the Laga 16 and 12 year old expressions, but they’re really completely different beasts. The 12 year (most likely matured only in bourbon casks) reminds me of a cask strength Caol Ila. Much more ashy and peppery than the 16 year. Plus, the 12 year is bottled at cask strength. The 12 year is also excellent, but you need to try both. It’s not an either-or proposition.

Other opinions

WHISKYFUN.COM by Serge has reviewed a 2009 bottle of Lagavulin 16 and gave it a very respectable 90 points. Check out Serge’s great review.

The always entertaining Ralfy recently did a video review of the Laga 16. He also gave it 90 points:

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