My first published review is my overall favorite Scotch whisky, Lagavulin 16. That may sound a little cliché and hardcore whisky snobs may roll their eyes at me, but I love it. If I had to pick one and only one Scotch whisky to have for the rest of my life, it’d have to be Lagavulin 16. In fact, I’d choose Lagavulin 16 if the choice was one and only one whiskey of any kind… Scotch, Irish or any other type.
Lagavulin 16 was the first Scotch I’d ever tried and I loved it immediately. I’ll admit, I was inspired to dive into the world of single malt Scotch by the Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson… but Ron did me right. Something about the way he enjoyed Lagavulin got me curious. I was not a whiskey or Scotch drinker at all mind you. In fact, I’ve steered clear of dark spirits since my college days of shooting Jack and chugging Bud, just typing that make my stomach turn and the room spin just a bit… I responsible and moderate drinker is not something I was ever called during college.
Lagavulin in an iconic brand both in terms of Islay Scotches and Scotch whisky from any region of Scotland. It’s a heavily peated whisky that combines smokiness and sweetness to achieve one of the most flavorful, balanced and enjoyable drams I can find.
Now, I should say, many Scotch lovers would likely advise someone new to Scotch to work up to something of the likes of Lagavulin. Starting with Lagavulin might be akin to learning to drive in a Ferrari… but how freakin’ cool would it have been to have learned to drive in a Ferrari?!? :) Often, I hear it recommended that you start with something mild in flavor, sweeter, softer, etc. Then try something lightly peated, move to moderately peated and, if you enjoyed those, move to the heavily peated Islay giants Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg. But that’s not what I did. As I did my research, having been inspired by Ron Swanson and seeing the video of Nick Offerman I posted on my About Me page, something in my core told me I was going to love Lagavulin, and I was absolutely right.
With Lagavulin you get the rich peaty flavor, lots of smoke, the medicinal/iodine taste AND the honey sweetness imparted from the oak casks. It may sound strange to say that iodine/medicinal hints are a desirable flavor, but they are. It’s the taste of the salty sea water on the shores of Islay. It’s more than taste too. The iodine/medicinal hints come through in the mouth feel, adding a feeling to your cheeks, gums and tongue that make Lagavulin all the more delicious and memorable.
I set out 2 Glencairn glasses side by side, poured and equal amount into each, added a bit of water to one and was off. I also had a bottle of chilled water to cleanse my palate in between tastings. I’ve since found that a mild soda water like Lacroix is a great palate cleanser when trying multiple whiskies, just be sure to pick something that isn’t too strong on its own, or just stick with water.
Be sure to give plenty of time to nosing Lagavulin, the nosing really is an equally important part of whisky tasting. Here are my tasting notes for this amazing, single malt Scotch whisky. Have a look at Richard Paterson as he goes deep into the glass to fully take in the whisky via nosing.
Lagavulin 16 neat (or straight – no ice, no water)
Color - beautiful heavy amber
Nose - smoke, ash, peat, salt, honey, sea water
Palate - honey, smoke, cinnamon, peaty, slight burn
Finish - heavy, oily, substantial, creamy, slight bitterness
Lagavulin 16 with just a bit of water
Nose - a touch of water brings out the sweetness and medicinal notes, spicier, citrus, lemons
Palate - added water softens the heat, much smoother, increases the smokiness a bit
Finish - still oily and creamy though reduced, decreased bitterness with a little water
A big thanks to my buddy Mark for encouraging me to get this blog up and running and get these reviews posted! Mark owns and operates NW Tree Pros, a Portland Oregon tree service, here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I’m dedicating my first review to him and NWTP. He’ll be honored the post mentioning him is about Lagavulin 16!
MY WHISKEY LIKES & LOVES
About the Author
I came to the joys of uisce beatha - Irish for whiskey (pronounced ish-ka bah-hah) - later in life, but now I'm diving in!