Lagavulin 12-year (13th release)

"A very pungent one, this Lagavulin, and rather one that is focussed on impact, precision and quality, than on development and complexity"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

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The 12-year-old Lagavulin is a regular among the yearly special releases from Diageo, and considered by many as a modern classic. The raving reviews brought me to try a sample of one of the releases (in fact two, since another will come later this week). Lagavulin does not release any other cask strength versions, in fact they do not release many whiskies at all. Well, as long as the quality is high, we do not mind, do we? The 12-year-old is always matured in refill American oak barrels (I guess formerly holding bourbon), so we do not expect too much cask influence.

Nose

Initially, it is surprisingly light, but I would say it is very focussed. There are slightly chemical notes of solvents and a freshly tarred road.  However, it very quickly gains strength with an acrid, sweetish peat that I find so typical of Lagavulin’s spirit. More tar smoke, lots of graphene, ink and carbon paper, and a hint of wet newspapers. These are really the main determinants, along with a faint hint of smoked pineapple and maybe some smoked mango. With water, the strength becomes slightly subdued, but it also is comes more together. I also find some lime rand in the background.

Taste

It is really ultra focused, not very complex, but what it has got, it has got in good quality! Lots of coal smoke, tar, and a hint of sawdust. Not that much more. To get the most out of the palate, I think we might need to add some water. So with water we have more tar, an acrid kind of smoke, almost biting, and smoked mackerel. I find a bit too pungent and acrid for my taste. It has got a very long aftertaste though with a lingering combination of smoke, tar and ink.

Overall

A very pungent one, this Lagavulin. Rather one that is focussed on impact, precision and quality, than on development and complexity. But it is certainly very good at what it does. Albeit not my favourite Lagavulin so far (I still prefer the 8 years old). But we are fortunate enough to have another edition from the 12-year-old on our tasting table for the next session.

What others say

Whiskybase: 88.79 (271 votes) * Serge Valentin @Whiskyfun: 92/100 * @Whiskynotes: 86/100
Read for yourself

Big thanks to for sharing the sample!

Scores

these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •

Cask influence
40%
Peat/smoke
75%
  • Acrid smoke
  • Graphene
  • Ink
Nose 87%
Taste 87.5%
Balance 86%
Depth 85%
Finish 87%
Score