lagavulin 16 years review

Lagavulin 16 Years (2023)

A modern classic if there ever was one. Although maybe not so modern. The Lagavulin 16 Years has been around since the 1980s. I reviewed this Islay single malt once previously, liking it but not loving it.

Contrary to many of you whisky enthusiasts, Islay is not my be-all and end-all destination in Scotland. I’ve been to the island a few times and loved some of my distillery visits there, but I find there are simply more beautiful, unspoiled places in Scotland I enjoy better.

Having said that, my memories of Lagavulin are very fond. Visiting for the first time during this memorable sailing trip, then a few years later with my partner. Both times the recently retired Iain MacArthur poured me a few drams during the Lagavulin Warehouse Demonstration.


There have been many memorably Lagavulin over the years. The Lagavulin 25 Years bottled for the distillery’s bicentenary remains a favourite. A few White Horse Editions of the Lagavulin 16 Years come to mind. And recently I opened a Lagavulin bottled for Feis Ile 2016—simply great whisky. Of course, nothing much topped this Lagavulin tasting.

What I’m trying to say is, while I’m not very much into Islay (heresy indeed), and not many of my favourite distilleries are on the island, I know my way around a good Lagavulin. You can wake me up for one should it ever come to that. After all, the Lagavulin 16 Years is a classic for a reason.

lagavulin 16 years closeup

Lagavulin 16 Years (43%, OB, 2023)

Nose: Cured meats alongside hints of tar, rubber and charcoal, as well as bonfire, driftwood and camphor. Also whiffs of hemp rope and salted caramel, but then a gentle fruitiness highlighted by clementines and white peaches.
Taste: Texture is quite viscous, even at this low alcohol percentage, and there’s a pleasant salinity as well. Sugar-coated peanuts with smoked barley husks, grilled beef, black olives and oranges, as well as earthy peat, tar and seaweed. Very happy with this.
Finish: Medium length. A sprinkle of salt, some walnuts and syrupy caramel, as well as lingering notes of iodine and diesel.

It's strange that I'm surprised by the quality of the Lagavulin 16 Years, one of the most beloved, highly-regarded single malts in the history of malt whisky. Probably I should've expected this, and I suppose this is not a revelation to anyone but myself. I hadn't tasted the Lagavulin 16 Years in a long time, and used to always think it was good, but also slightly overrated. Certainly not this batch.

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