Is Older Scotch Better? Lagavulin 12 vs. 16

Comparing two excellent scotches from Lagavulin

It took no less than 10 years for me to cultivate an appreciation for Islay scotch. Loved by some and avoided by many, this type of scotch has an unmistakable smell and taste. Dried cuts of peat bog from Scotland’s island of Islay are used to roast the malt giving the whisky its unique characteristics.

Typical words used to describe an Islay scotch are campfire, brine, salt, and iodine. When a bottle first came my way, it became a curiosity that sat in my bar for a long time as something to pour for entertaining reactions.

Somehow it grew on me – albeit very slowly – and I began to understand its secrets.

Some of my favorite Islay scotch is by Lagavulin. All of their offerings are bold expressions of peated scotch. They are alluring in all aspects and exude quality. Let’s compare two of their best offerings, Lagavulin 12 and 16 year.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Scotch

lagavulin 12 vs 16 scotch whisky

Complex from the very first sip. Peat takes the foreground but is balanced with sea salt and oak. While you can taste the peat bogs decaying vegetal sea and salty matter, but it comes off very clean.

The body is a solid “medium” with some oiliness, though generally very dry. For the age of this whisky and its relatively lower proof, there is a touch of heat to it. The saltiness eventually dies away into a peppery bite.

A medium-to-long finish ends with a sweetness coming through as an earthy fig jam that had a touch of sweet lemon added to it. The pepper hangs out all the way through a medium length finish.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Scotch: 43% ABV, $80

Lagavulin 12 Year Old Scotch

lagavulin 12 vs 16 scotch whisky

The nose of this whisky comes off exceptionally well for cask-strength and does not give the impression as such with an interplay of softer peat and meyer lemon with a touch of creaminess.

With sipping, an intense salty and oceanic blast hits right away with the peat coming in as a strong second. Candied citrus sweetness comes through after the initial salt and peat blast. In the background, I taste a bright pepperiness accompanying the sweetness along with a walnut tang.

The finish is one of the longest I have ever experienced and dies away slowly to leave only a touch of peat smoke. With the higher proof comes a full-bodied and noticeably more intense flavor profile with an oilier mouth feel than the 16 year offering.

Lagavulin 12 Year Old Scotch: 57.5% ABV, $120

lagavulin 12 vs 16 scotch whisky

Conclusion

Both Lagavulin 12 and 16 Year are classy well-done scotches backed with 200 years of history. In other words, they won’t disappoint.

Lagavulin 16 year is fantastic and is continually stocked in my bar. However the 12 year expression has that certain “it” factor. As a matter of fact, I was shocked at how good it was when I first tasted it.

You should also know, interestingly, that Lagavulin 12 Year is much harder to find and, as a result, can have large markups on pricing sometimes on a shelf for for upwards of $200 a bottle. So if you can find it for around $120, then you’d best snag it!

Let’s face it, it’s often the case that finding the best and most desirable whiskies out there can become something of a treasure hunt. And Lagavulin 12 Year is certainly no exception.

Let us know what you think of Lagavulin scotch!

Thanks, as always, for reading and cheers!

Stylishly Yours,

Chris Sarangoulis
He Spoke Style

Photography by Rob McIver Photo

Chime In

  • http://sdjackofclubs.com Jack of Clubs

    Lagavulin is a solid choice. Always. I was introduced to peated scotch probably 15 years ago via Bowmore 12 and Laphroaig 10. It only took a few sips for me to be hooked on the Islay varieties. I’ve enjoyed Lagavulin 16 on numerous occasions, and it has often enjoyed a place on my whiskey shelf. I have never tried 12, but you make it sound wonderful. Lagavulin recently released a limited edition, 200 year anniversary Lagavulin 8. I saw it in the store the other day, but idiotically did not pick it up. Curious to hear your thoughts if you’ve tried it.

    • Chris Sarangoulis

      I have not tried the 8yr but I heard it was one to try in a bar before committing to a bottle. The 12 really is wonderful and a must buy. I too am also a big fan of Laphroiag 10. I actually put Laphroiag 15 and 18 on my Christmas list. Ever get into any of the Ardbeg line? They have several unique offerings as well. Thanks for sharing!

      • http://sdjackofclubs.com Jack of Clubs

        Good call on the 8. I’ll look for it in my neighborhood saloon. I also like Ardbeg. My wive bought me a bottle of the Dark Cove for my birthday this year. Still working on it.

      • Werner Beytel

        I can highly recommend the 8 year. I had it recently at a local whisky tasting and it is a fantastic dram. I ordered 2 bottles from http://www.masterofmalt.com immediately afterwards.

        It is still distinctly Lagavulin but somehow crisp and fresh as well.

        It is by far my favourite 8 year at the moment

  • Nathan Kounelis

    The 12 is a completely different animal, its a big whisky.

    • Chris Sarangoulis

      Nathan,
      That is true. A little goes a long way. Worth the extra cost.