Before its fame on Parks and Rec, before I’d tried another Islay scotch, hell — before this site was called Sublime Imbibing I wrote a blog about Lagavulin 16 and my first time trying it. It’s gone on to become the most read article on SI, amassing over 20,000 reads (if you include the Sipping With Smoth days).

In effect, it was more of a cautionary tale about scotch huberous than it was a review. This was a decade ago, and Lagavulin loomed collosal before my pubescent palate. Nevertheless I persisted in ordering it neat, and couldn’t even decide whether or not I liked it beneath all the peat smoke. At the waiter’s suggestion I dribbled in some water, and lo and behold, I was able to eke out some appreciation for the legendary Lagavulin 16.

But that was a decade ago, and now is now. Christine graced me with the lovely Christmas gift of a bottle of the big boy and I thought it was high time to do a proper tasting and see if the hype was worth it.

Lagavulin 16 Review

This is definitely one scotch you’re either going to love or hate. It’s not for everyone, and I think most Lag fans wear that as a badge of honour. But I think there’s more to love than to hate about Lagavulin 16 if you’re prepared to stomach some smoke.

It pours a rich caramel colour that looks positively syrupy in the glass. Immediatley, without reservation or hesitation Lagavulin absolutely perfumes whatever space you’re sipping it in. I once described it as “smelling like a lit cigar” and I think that’s true in the strength of odour, if not its character.

In actuality, once you get passed the pungency, Lagavulin 16 smells more like charcoal smoke than many Islays, with the peatiness a kind of secondary note. There’s a kick of iodine (not a bad thing) and a spiciness I couldn’t quite put my finger on beneath the smoke.

It gets better after a sip. This scotch has a rich, oily body which is perfect for transporting it’s smokiness, vanilla notes, and a tannic nip that’s a bit like well-steeped black tea. While a bit higher ABV than standard at 43%, there’s almost no alcohol flavour detectable with everything else going on. The finish is extremely long and reminds me a bit of chewing on figs or other dry druit.

In a nutshell: It’s more than just a macho whisky (though it is also a macho whisky). Thanks to Christine, I’m now firmly placed in the pro Lagavulin 16 camp, and can recommend everyone try it at least once — so long as you sip it slow.

Lagavulin 16 with a Norlan whisky glass


Final Verdict

Lagavulin 16 proves theres some merit to its macho, and is well worth enjoying if you can stomach the smoke.