Vintage Cellars

One hundred and forty miles west of Glasgow, in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, lies the windswept, breathtaking island of Islay. In a remote bay in the south of the island, nestled between a small fleet of brightly coloured fishing boats and a heavy headland emerging from the water, is Lagavulin. It’s a deceivingly quaint location for a serious global business producing some of the world’s most sought-after Scottish single malts, and a place Whisky lovers have been known to pilgrimage to, keen to learn the secrets of their favourite spirit. 


Today, this 200-year-old distillery’s copper stills are functioning 24 hours a day, trying to keep up with the ever-growing international demand for its aged Whiskys, especially its flagship 16-year-old Single Malt.


But while the Whisky – aged in oak for 16 years– is revered by connoisseurs and experts as one of the world’s finest, those same discerning drinkers will tell you that the quality of Whisky depends on many variables beyond just age (and that the distillery’s eight-year-old and special release 12-year-old Whiskys are worth trying too).


The factors affecting the taste and experience of your Whisky:

Landscape and Location

More than anything, the landscape of Islay shapes the flavours of the single malts it produces. The peat (a mixture of natural matter tightly compacted over thousands of years, that when smoked produces absorbed by the malted barley) fed on a constant diet of rain and sea spray, is particularly pungent and adds a strong smoky, earthy taste to the liquids. Combine this with the intensity of salty seaweed, and the result is the flavours of rich fruits and strong, smoky tea that provide the basic profile of all of Lagavulin’s Whisky.


The slow distillation at Lagavulin is said to give their whisky an unrivalled intense and full-bodied flavour. Lagavulin employs the slowest double distillation process among Islay’s whiskies – for the first distillation approximately five hours and more than nine hours for the second.

Ageing process

At Lagavulin, the results of this process can be seen when comparing three of the distillery’s most popular expressions. While Lagavulin 8 YO has the same boldness as its older counterparts, it is a magnificently full on Lagavulin taste that’s somehow bigger than you’d expect, with notes of charred oak and minty dark chocolate. Compare this with the distillery’s 2022 Special Release 12YO single malt, aged for 12 years in predominantly American oak, virgin casks, which gives the whisky a sweet richness that takes off with a soaring lemony acidity and sprinkling of sea salt to add freshness. A dash of water rounds and sweetens, but it’s the smoke that dominates. Lagavulin 16 YO, on the other hand, paints a much richer, deeper portrait, on account of being aged in the barrel for twice the amount of time. The finish has a gentle but strong fruit sweetness, followed by sea and salt with touches of wood and clouds of peat smoke.