Lagavulin 11 year old Offerman Edition: Guinness Cask Finish, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $80
Inspired by actor and comedian Nick Offerman’s devotion to Lagavulin single malt scotch, Islay distillery Lagavulin debuted its first Offerman Edition in 2019. A second Offerman release appeared in the spring of 2021—an 11 year old like the first, but with four months of finishing in Guinness casks. Amid a crowded field of ultra-aged, barrel proof, and many other formidable contenders, this stout cask-finished expression emerged from the pack to become our 2021 Whisky of the Year.
While the 16 year old Lagavulin is generally considered the classic of the range, many Lagavulin fans prefer the younger expressions. The Lagavulin 12 year old, for example, has made frequent appear-
ances in the Diageo Special Releases annual series, and the 2017 version landed at number-four in our Top 20. But could an even younger expression—and one with a simple beer cask finish to boot—possibly compare to the stately, sherried depth of the oldest Lagavulins on the shelf? The answer was a resounding yes.
At first whiff, it’s Lagavulin alright—but somehow brighter and more
playful. The peat smoke and maritime salinity become wrapped in the
freshness of fragrant citrus, melding with honeyed vanilla and white chocolate. On the palate, a subtle backdrop of peat embers harmonizes with flavors of toffee and baked orange, leading to a nimble smoked finish that sings with notes of coffee and chocolate, and just goes on and on. That finish truly became the clincher for our tasters. It showed that while this whisky charts its own lively course, it is
anything but straightforward—and loses none of Lagavulin’s famed depth and complexity. While peated scotch devotees are among the most loyal whisky fans in the world, we recognize that peat is not always for everyone. Yet with its artfully cheerful style and an abundance of captivating flavors,
we believe this whisky bridges that divide.
Number 1 in the 2021 Top 20
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 56.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
This is the 15th Special Releases bottling of Lagavulin 12 year old. Matured in refill American oak hogsheads. The nose is smoky, with kippers, charcuterie, and bonfire embers, offset by berry fruits. On the unctuous palate, smoke blends with vanilla, green apples, and licorice, plus pepper and sea salt. Peppery, ashy peat in the lengthy finish. (Individual reviewer rating: 91)
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 56.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Conventional wisdom suggests that Lagavulin is at its peak at 16 years of age. However, this superlative 12 year old confirms why many consumers like their Lagavulin younger. This is Lagavulin at its very best: bold, yet complex and satisfying; full of character, with smoky, savory, maritime, sweet vanilla, and fruit notes all merging into a balanced and eminently drinkable whole. It takes a few drops of water well, releasing burnt grass aromas and more palate sweetness. The Diageo Special Releases are not known to be bargains, but this Lagavulin is sensibly priced, and the greatest all-around value from the 2017 lineup. Number 4 in the 2017 Top 20
Lagavulin 26 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2021), 44.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $2400
Matured in first fill PX/oloroso seasoned casks, the nose opens with fruitcake, dried mango, marmalade, ground ginger, and baking spices. As the brighter fruits dissipate, aromas of dried fig and burnt teacake emerge. A thick, oily mouthfeel with flavors of chocolate orange, then chocolate ganache, restrained spice, malt, bramble, sultana, and date, with an eternal sweetness infused with smoke. A simply wonderful tasting experience. (7,542 bottles)
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2010), 56.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $109
There’s precious little reticence about this beast, which leaps out of the glass blowing peat smoke everywhere — then comes raffia, Lapsang Souchong tea, seashore, wet rocks, Elastoplast, talcum powder, bog myrtle (laurel), vetiver, and the aromas of a just-expunged peat bonfire with apples baking on it. Huge and complex, in other words. The palate starts with a fug of smoke being belched at you (non-peat freaks look away, now) then distinct saltiness enlivens the tongue before everything plunges down; intense sweetness takes charge for a moment before it shifts into charred creosoted timbers. This begs for some water, and when it’s added, out comes sandalwood and peat smoke and tar and an orris root-like character — it’s not often I get gin-like notes on Lagavulin, but it’s here — which rolls over you as you roll over and succumb to its power. After this year’s sublime distillery-only bottling, it’s clear that Lagavulin is in a real purple patch. Superb.
Lagavulin 1993 Islay Jazz Festival bottling (2011 Release), 55.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $127
An extremely limited edition issued at last year’s Islay Jazz Fest, this was chosen by warehouseman Iain McArthur as a prime example of a ‘bodega’ sherry butt (see page XX for more on the ‘bodega’ process). It is, simply, massive, with concentrated soy/balsamic notes combining with hot embers, burning rosemary, fig, coffee, and candied peels. The smokiness is unrestrained on the tongue; all soot, earth, and a rolling wave of deep, pimento-accented meatiness leading to a kippery finish. Magnificent. (Distillery only) £80
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 56.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $164
Sweet woodsmoke, peat embers, Jaffa oranges, new leather, sea salt, and cigarette smoke on the nose. Orange carries over onto the robust palate, with quite pronounced smokiness, black pepper, and dark chocolate. Long and peppery in the finish, with lingering smoke and brine.
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2019), 56.5%
Single Grain Scotch | $147
Matured in refill American oak casks. Brine, sea breezes, woodsmoke, green apples, and ginger on the nose, plus buttery smoked haddock. Sweet and supple on the palate, with cigar, citrus fruit, and spicy peat notes developing. Scorched saucepans, licorice, lemon juice, and black pepper in the finish. £110
This has been Lagavulin’s principal expression for more than 30 years. Iodine, rich peat, and caramel on the early nose, with sherry, sea salt, and charcuterie. The oily, briny palate offers peat and a medicinal note, along with black tea, Seville orange, toffee, cinnamon, and a hint of smoked fish. Peat embers and hot tar in the lengthy, spicy finish. Deeply satisfying!
This cask strength, sherry cask matured expression was released as part of Lagavulin’s bicentennial celebration. The nose offers new leather, tropical fruits, brittle toffee, and brine, backed by spicy peat smoke. Smoky sherry notes open up in time. The rich, well-mannered palate boasts sweet peat, brine, muted sherry, figs, gentle spices, tangerines, and lemons. Becoming more savory in the long, gently smoky, malty finish. Very drinkable at cask strength. A great Lagavulin. (8,000 bottles)
A sherry-cask Lagavulin, this immediately shows a rich, mellow power with a touch of potter’s wheel, but it needs water to bring out sandalwood, beach bonfire, kombu, Lapsang Souchong, and bog myrtle. The palate is where it shows itself fully; resinous and thick, unctuous even, with that scented pine/juniper tea note shifting into paprika-rubbed ham, membrillo, currants, blackberry. I’ve a feeling that this period will be seen as Lagavulin’s golden age. £99
Lagavulin from a first-fill sherry butt? There’s unusual. This is huge, fluxing, and complex, mixing saddles and dark chocolate, pu-erh tea and smothered kiln, geranium and velvet, gamey venison and treacle. The smoke is integrated, the fires ember-like, the oak there but not oppressively so. Massive, dense, layered, and complex, this needs time to open. In short, a distillation of Islay and up alongside last year’s Jazz Festival bottling.
Lagavulin Feis Ile (2013 Release, Distilled 1995), 51%
Single Malt Scotch | $152
Though quiet to start, the impression is of a fog of smoke, balled up within a dunnage
warehouse, ready to erupt to add itself to the cool spearmint and oxidized
nuttiness. The palate is where it shows its class: mature, slowly unfolding and
layered, with Latakia tobacco, menthol, nori, white pepper, pear, and a massive,
tarry Bohea Souchong tea element on the finish. Everything from Lagavulin is
touched with gold at the moment. Try to find a bottle. (distillery only) £99
Sweet peat smoke and heather on the nose, with light ginger and smoked fish drizzled
with lemon. Oily and rounded on the palate, with more sweet peat, lemon, and sea
salt. Very long in the slightly waxy finish, with peat and licorice. Price is for entire
Prima & Ultima Collection, of which this whisky is a part. (1,013 bottles) £20,000
More polished and sophisticated than the comparably sweet and lush Lagavulin 21 year old also reviewed here. The pedro ximinez cask finish certainly gives as much as it takes away when compared to the benchmark 16 year old. An array of complex ripe fruit, interwoven with notes of pot still rum, toffee, tar, seaweed, and brine on the finish. It seems logical to marry this big, smoky Islay whisky with an equally big, sweet, fruity sherry. In this case, the marriage works wonderfully.
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2021), 56.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $150
On the nose, this is pretty peaty, redolent of baked lemon, smoked fish, fragrant roasted spices, salt water-lashed boat decks, and scorched earth, with faint citrus and cream notes in the background. Spices and chile pepper combine with lemon curd on the palate, the citrus sweetness breaking through, with a late contribution of Oreo cookies. Adding water only makes this tempestuous dram even spicier.
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2009), 57.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $75
The aromas are tightly bound, but a little water releases them nicely. A powerful dram, with tarry, leafy, coal ash, caramel apple, and driftwood notes; even a little soapy (not necessarily a negative). More subtle floral notes (heather, violet), Earl Grey tea, and smoked fish. Long, damp peat smoke and charcoal finish.
Lagavulin at an odd age, representing House Lannister and showcasing its lion sigil. The nose is floral, with rose hips, toffee, and fragrant peat notes. Full on the palate, with toffee apples, cinnamon, earthy peat, and smoked haddock in salted butter. The smoked fish combines with fennel in the lengthy finish.