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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Single Malt Report: Lagavulin 12 year old Cask Strength (2011 release)

Tuesday - Lagavulin 16 year old
Wednesday - Lagavulin 1991 Distillers Edition
Today - Lagavulin 12 year old Cask Strength (2011 release)

In what is possibly this site's final Lagavulin report, I present you with my favorite from their range...

Each year, Diageo presents to the whisky world their "Special Releases".  Amongst the old Broras and Port Ellens, whose MSRPs are exponentially increasing, sits the comparatively modestly priced annual Lagavulin 12 year old.  Sorry, that was a lot adverbs and adjectives.  Diageo makes me verbose.

Let's keep it short.  I've had the Lagavulin 12 release on a number of occasions, all of which were very positive.  It was nice to be able to buy a sample of the 2011 version from Master of Malt so I could officially dig in.

Please note: there are batch differences between each year's release.

Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: THEM!  :-\
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Maturation: former bourbon casks, possibly lots of refills
Age: minimum 12 years
Release date: 2011
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel coloring? No much, if any
Alcohol by Volume: 57.5%

The color is pee.  My favorite whisky color.  It gives me hope that the oak levels are low and the e150a colorant is at a minimum.  The nose starts with peated sugar cookies, followed by a load of aromatic herb notes (fennel, anise, licorice) reminiscent of my other favorite distilled spirit (dubbed "The Mistress").  Then plaster, vanilla beans, bread pudding, butterscotch make up the midground.  The beach is in the background.  The palate delivers one of my favorite peat volleys.  Just a big dry chunk of peat moss.  Hints of vanilla and butter and lemon cake.  A light sweetness, like a little light brown sugar.  Then a little salt and a little savory to go with a honey & orange peel sting.  It finishes very clean and fresh with a menthol glow.  A little cracked pepper and mint leaves.  Grass clippings drying in the sun.  Some salt, along with that peat brick.

The nose gets maltier.  The peat goes a little farmy.  A little more oak, but not much more.  Menthol, lemon peel, pen ink(?), and soil.  The palate gets grassy, drier, and tarter.  A nice bitterness.  Walnuts and almonds.  Earthiness, bitterness, and moss in the finish.

Oh dear.  Great whisky, steep price, ugly company.  The quandary.  That's what I thought about last night while enjoying this sample.

Looking past the troublesome details, I'd say, "WOW! Go get it, peatheads!"

Bringing in the expense, I'd say, "Wow!  Go get it, peatheads with a lot of discretionary income."

Taking everything into consideration, I say, "Fabulous liquid, a shame about everything else."

Availability - Specialty liquor retailers
Pricing - (for Lagavulin 12s in general) $85-$100 East Coast, $110-$125 West Coast
Rating - 92


  1. Looking aside the price, probably the highest for any twelve year old I've ever heard of in current production, I find it a refreshing release from the usual Diageo meddling. No caramel, no chill filtration, cask strength, is this the only sub $(infinity), bullshit-free malt that Diageo puts out?

    1. Thanks for your comment! I completely agree, it really is the most bullshit free malt in their regular rotation. The Talisker 57 North comes close, but even that is watered to the same 57% ABV in every botting, plus it has no age statement, and I'm not sure about the 57º's colorant situation. Lag 12 also tends to be lighter on oak and heavier in spirit than the current version of 57º. Plus it's good whisky.

  2. It's $100 here in the American Midwest, too. That's expensive but not terribly higher than bottles that are directly comparable:
    $70 for the slightly younger Laproaig 10 CS.
    $80-90 for Ardbeg NAS CSers Oogie & Corryvreckan.
    Young (of course) Kilchoman at CS is $100.
    CS Caol Ila is available only through indies, ranging $65 and up for very young and up.
    Port Chatlotte's "PCX" line is only available in a few lingering bottles that are all over $100.

    The Laphroaig is probably the best comparison and the one that makes the Lag 12 price look the worst.

    Am I missing some bottles of much more affordable, high-quality, CS, peated whisky? Maybe IBs from BenRiach, Bunnahabhain?

    1. Hey Ol' Jas. I think Lag 12's $100 price is where a lot of those others you've named are aiming. Lagavulin just got there first. I keep hearing talk that Diageo is going to raise their single malt prices soon, but with sales (possibly) down for the past two quarters, I wonder if they'll risk alienating their customers. On the other hand, it's Diageo. They've publicly stated that they could not care less about their single malt customers.

      The cask strength Port Charlotte prices are tough, with the PC11(?) now reaching Octomore pricing. In defense of PC, their releases are limited in quantity. Lag 12 never references its limits and it's being produced by a larger distillery by the largest company with the largest warehouses, so who knows how many bottles they're cranking out.

      Kilchoman's CSes have, until last month, been single casks. Thus they're in much shorter supply. Even so, I did buy one bottle recently and wanted to punch myself in the nose for paying the price. I won't be buying another one.