The connoisseur"„¢s choice when it comes to Islay whisky, with Lagavulin 16 Year Old is hailed as one of the finest whiskies available. Rich, smoky and elegant.
Part of the triumvirate of heavily-peated southern Islay malts, alongside Ardbeg and Laphroaig, Lagavulin distillery was officially founded in 1816 by John Johnston (although illicit distillation is said to have been carried out on the site since the mid-18th century) and is now owned by drinks giant Diageo, it has been the Islay representative of Diageo's Classic Malts selection since 1987.
Lagavulin is almost exclusively matured in ex-bourbon casks, meaning its robust, uncompromising smoke and salted-fish character comes storming out of the glass unhindered. It has converted untold numbers of people to whisky drinking and remains the firm favourite of countless malt fans worldwide. One of its most high-profile fans, albeit a fictional one, is Ron Swanson. This character from Parks and Recreation, played by Nick Offerman, loves Lagavulin so much that he not only visited the distillery, but also starred in a 45-minute promotional video for them.
Allocations of the standard 16 Year Old are never adequate to satisfy demand for the product, resulting in frequent shortages. Diageo solves this problem by also releasing a cask strength 12 Year Old almost every year, along with the vintage-dated Distillers Edition series, which has been finished in sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry casks and has won numerous awards in its own right.
To mark its 200th anniversary in 2016, Lagavulin released an eight-year-old. Alongside this affordable, tasty dram, the distillery also released a limited number of bottles of its 25 Year Old, which raised more than £500,000 for charity.
Perhaps the most memorable Lagavulin review comes from the late whisky writer Michael Jackson: An Islay classic. In the peatiness typical of the island, this is the most powerfully, intensely, dry. It also has smoke, salt and seaweedy, medicinal notes, though those characteristics are more evident in some of its neighbours."„¢
Lagavulin is made in the south of Islay, at a distillery with breathtaking views over Lagavulin Bay. Its whiskies are made with water from the Solan Lochs, while the peat, so crucial to their distinctive flavour, comes from the extensive peat bogs in the west of the island.
There are four stills at Lagavulin, two of them pear-shaped in the style inherited from Malt Mill, which run for longer than any others on Islay. Lagavulin whiskies will be in the stills for more than five hours for the first distillation and more than nine hours for the second. This long distillation is said to contribute towards the whisky"„¢s roundness and mellow edges.