November 4, 2005

Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch Review

Lagavulin
86 Proof, 16 year old Islay Single Malt Scotch
Typical Price: $40 plus for 750ml (Update: $40 was a misprint...we meant to type $100 plus. But what's $60 more for good scotch, right?)
Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits

Lagavulin Single Malt ScotchInitial Thoughts: We've said it multiple times that all scotch tastes the same to us, and it just so happens that we like that taste, but we had an experience last week that made us eat our words. After dining in a local pub, we asked our server to bring us a scotch we'd never tried before and he instantly perked up. He said he had one variety he liked so much he bought a bottle for the bar because he felt so strongly that they should stock it. He brought it to us, and we couldn't understand what he said when he told us the name. After some back and forth we turned on our hearing aids and realized he was saying "Lagavulin."

We took one whiff and we were instantly in love with the stuff before even taking a drink. Lagavulin is an Islay scotch, a region known for creating peaty whisky, but this stuff had a deep peat smell the likes of which we'd never experienced, and a rich amber color. Between the two, we were given the warm feeling of a campfire. The taste was a combination of sweetness and smoke, and very rugged, sticking around long after we swallowed. We made our server write down the name for us so we could use it for our first scotch review.

Cocktail Recipes: Bite your tongue!

Finishing Thoughts: We'd never had an Islay whisky before, but we've read about it and we're familiar with names like Laphroaig, another scotch from the region. And while we loved Lagavulin, we're scotch novices, so we got in contact with Kevin Erskine, the man who wrote the book on single malt scotch. He was kind enough to share a few thoughts with us, which we've included below:

There has long been a religious war of sorts between fans of Lagavulin vs. Laphroaig, though the discussion is much like the Coke versus Pepsi debate -most people couldn't tell the difference between the two in a blind taste test. As a result either can be considered to be a definitive Islay malt. For example Michael Jackon gives Lagavulin higher points, while Jim Murray gives a slight edge to Laphroaig.

That being said The Lagavulin IS excellent - garnering 99 points from the Beverage Tasting institute, 97 points from Wine Spectator and 95 points from Michael Jackson. This is a whisky to work your way up to. The peat can overwhelm the average palate, and the finish is smoky and sustained. It's been said so much, it's almost a cliche - Lagavulin is an acquired taste, people either love it or hate it.

Well, we're novices and we loved it. Kevin also went on to note that there is a shortage of the Lagavulin, which we assume contributes to higher prices and could make it tough to find. But if you do find it, especially in a bar where you can order by the glass, we recommend you give it a try.

For a plethora of information about a wide variety of scotch whiskies, visit Kevin's site, The Scotch Blog.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at November 4, 2005 5:13 AM

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Recent Comments

Lagavulin is truly a Scotch you will either love or hate. No in between with this one. Personally I am on the side that loves it.

Either way this is absolutely a Scotch you have to try at least once.


Posted by: Josh at December 25, 2010 1:40 AM

This Scotch sucks. Tastes like a medicine cabinet and has the same after-taste. I always drank Balvanie and now I know why. Yuck!!!!


Posted by: David at October 12, 2010 11:41 AM

The first time I tried Lagavulin was last night and at the first sip I was not impressed but I had another and I am hooked...The husband does not like it and he was the scotch drinker...He put the bottle in with my vodka and said it was mine...needless to say I am sipping it again right now...


Posted by: Anne at September 11, 2010 9:23 PM

Probably the best peaty scotches out there (Ardbeg and Laprhoaig are a distant second). Could be overpowering for a noobie though. Once you get used to this, I guess there is no looking back. At least, that was the case for me :)


Posted by: ajay at July 31, 2010 9:19 PM

This was the first scotch I had ever tasted. I must say I was not impressed. I then continued trying different types of scotches. Then one day at a friends house all he had was Lagavulin so I figured well heck, why not. I LOVED IT, I wondered why I did not like it at first and was disappointed on what I was missing out on by some of the other ones I was drinking. Non the less I am a huge lagavulin fan and for the price you can not go wrong. The initial deep cask taste may be overpowering at first for a new young scotch drinker as it was for me also. If I can make one recommendation, come back to trying it again because you will be blown away your second time around.


Posted by: Marc at July 23, 2010 3:32 PM

I am anything but a Scotch drinker. I always paired it with old men sitting in taverns over in the Isles. It wasn't something a woman drank. My husband on the other hand is a great appreciator. We were preparing for the birth of our son and I wanted to do something special for him as a surprise. Considering getting a few cigars for after the birth was out of the question due to hospital regulations I set out to buy him a good bottle of Scotch. Not knowing a thing I did some research online but left most of my trust in a local place that happened to sell this brand. He assured me I wouldn't be disappointed. For over a $100 U.S. I better not be was all I could think.

I ended up giving it to my husband and he was rather surprised at my choice. It was a brand he had not tried before. I thought I was in trouble, thankfully I wasn't. One taste and he was hooked. It brought back fond memories of him and his father and talking about the old country. We shared the bottle with the doctor, friends and family the day after our son was born. It was a hit for Scotch drinkers and non alike, even myself.

We have since bought many more bottles, 3 of which have been tucked away. Each to be given to our children on their wedding day. This Scotch has turned into a family tradition and is well worth the price.


Posted by: Mrs. Gibson at January 18, 2010 2:55 PM

I celebrated an Anniversary dinner at a very nice restaurant with my wife last year. I asked the waitress for a list of single malts that they had. I had never tried Lagavulin before that evening. I grabbed a book of matches from the restaurant and copied the name down. It became my favorite single malt instantly. You wouldn't assume how smooth it goes down from how strong the peaty smell is, but that is one of its charms. I cannot say enough how much I enjoy this scotch.


Posted by: pete at June 25, 2009 8:06 AM

A buddy of mine who is of Scottish decent recently visited Scottland and brought back a small bottle of Lagavulin. He was kind enough to save me a small sample. I have never fallin more in love with a scotch than I did Lagavulin. I just bought the Distillers Edition two days ago and cannot get enough of it. There is a more balanced taste between the peat and the smokey flavor. It brings the sweetness through a little bit more than the standard 16 year bottle. If you have the chance to taste the Distillers Edition, you must. It is a scotch that should be in any scotch lovers bar.


Posted by: Landrin Long at December 19, 2008 2:41 PM

this was my first scotch and probably my last. its kind of like charcoal when its sitting in your mouth but when u swallow it (which is a mistake in itself) its like your sitting next to a campfire and your breathing in pure smoke. I would not suggest this to anybody except a scotch drinker. I'd rather have my captain's tattoo.


Posted by: Dylan at July 2, 2008 1:40 AM

I am a long time Scotch enthusiast, and I too am in love with Lagavulin. Kevin Erskine's theory regarding the inability to differentiate between Lagavulin and Laphroaig is utter nonsense. Clearly the man has no tastebuds. Some of my other favorites (many of them Islay malts} include Ardbeg, Coal Ila, Bruichladdich, Highland Park, and Talisker. If you enjoy Lagavulin, I'd recommend Ardbeg or Coal Ila as they both have that smoky peat flavor although less forcefully expressed than in the Lagavulin.


Posted by: Harry Schultz at January 4, 2008 8:44 PM

I own a bottle of Lagavulin and love it. Although I have yet to find anyone else who does oh well thier loss. I do have a question. Do you know were one can find the perfume the Spirit of Scotland ? Thankyou


Posted by: Tamatha Klus at January 11, 2007 10:20 PM

Lagavulin is certainly a very tasty scotch.

If you like the Islays you may also enjoy a Talisker. It's not technically an Islay, but is very similar being distilled one island north on Skye. It still has a lot of the characteristics of most island scotches, but is somewhat distinctive from the Islays.

On a similar note, a Highland Park is also very good scotch. From the far north island of Orkney, I find it manages to combine the best of the island scotches and the highland scotches.


Posted by: Jim Eastman at November 4, 2005 11:49 PM
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