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Every whisky wants to be regarded as "iconic" but how many truly fit the bill? Whether we like to admit it or not, marketing stories are important and they work. Bourbons love to proclaim their connection (real or manufactured) to the American spirit of independence. (Never mind the fact that 8 distilleries produce the vast majority of all bourbon on the market). Scotch whisky distilleries love to incorporate Gaelic names as well as references to defying English tax-collectors by engaging in illicit distilling. Lagavulin 16 Year Old doesn't have to make these claims, as far as I'm concerned. Their tagline could be "This is Lagavulin. It tastes fantastic. You should buy it." and I doubt its sales would suffer. Lagavulin 16 is Ron Swanson's whisky of choice. Heck, I can imagine Swanson pronouncing my tagline in his signature deadpan. It would work, I'm sure of it. Not surprisingly, Lagavulin 16 is also the whisky of choice for Swanson's real life alter-ego, Nick "my beard can beat up your beard" Offerman.
- Nose (undiluted): deep wood smoke, a bit of iodine/seaweed, fresh tobacco, tar
- Palate (undiluted): rich arrival despite the lower abv (43%), silky mouth-feel, peat, a bit of tar, a slight toffee sweetness
- Finish: long, with tobacco smoke reminiscent of a cigar, a bit of cinnamon, and a eucalyptus note at the tail end that brings everything together beautifully.
With water....who am I kidding? I don't add water to this whisky. I just can't do it. It's classic and wonderful exactly as it is. Yes, I wish it was bottled a tad stronger, say 46%-48% abv. Yes, I wish Diageo would save the E150a (caramel colouring) for budget blended whisky and leave it out of my single malts altogether. But these are relatively minor quibbles. For me, Lagavulin 16 just hits the spot. While batch variations exist, I've been fortunate. Every bottle of Lagavulin 16 I've owned has been exceptional.
The bottle of Lagavulin 16 currently residing in my whisky cabinet (and the one I’m reviewing here) was a gift from some very thoughtful people, so this particular Lagavulin is even more heart-warming than others I've had. I fully admit to being biased, so it's difficult to even feign objectivity where this whisky is concerned. It's an all-time favourite of mine.