A triumphant entry for one of the annual Diageo Special Releases regulars – the Lagavulin 12 has only missed the very first edition in 2002. 2018’s is sweeter than the past few years, with all of the smoke and seaside character that these bottlings are known for.
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In the glass Lagavulin 12 comprises black and orange drams that swirl and dance to the nose and palate. The latter is composed of creamy vanilla, dark chocolate and tobacco, with a toffee sweetness, ginger, peat and smoke to the fore throughout. The taste is rich and sweet, yet smoky and earthy – the notes of ginger and peat are distinctly present, while vanilla and of course the smoke character adds some heft to the deal. Greater smoke character here compared with my experience with the 12 Year Old, with peat smoke in abundance.
There’s a good amount of black pepper, while the sweetness is almost malty, and the finish is long and lingering. A good blend of sweet, smokey, earthy and dry notes, that’s not as sweet as the 12YO but all the same certainly a very impressive bottling, and above average on the 12YO front.
The Lagavulin 12 has a dark copper body, with swirls of smoke and oak spiralling up as you plough through. Soaked to bursting with the usual rich and sweet vanilla tones, as well as cinnamon, citrus and brown sugar, the Lagavulin 12 also gets some earthiness about it – a little peat and smoke character emerging further on.
The Lagavulin 12 is a meaty dram, rich and sweet upfront, with the smoky vanilla, the peat and the pepper layered in behind. Layer upon layer of sweet and smokey flavours, that build to a rich and slightly saline, meaty and spicy finale. It’s tasty, drinkable complexity throughout.
The 2014 edition of their annual bottling is a delicious, elegant and ooily affair, with vanilla, citrus and cinnamon alongside a certain smoky quality. Composed of mostly whisky aged in ex-bourbon cask, the Lagavulin 12 is another tremendous production from the Islay distillery, and another cracking dram to add to the already excellent selection they offer.
Similar to last years twelve, the nose is the first thing you notice. Lots of seashore and peat character here, although there are dark chocolate notes, hints of fruit and wood and just a little bit of spice as well. The palate is much the same, with vanilla and a touch of smoke, but balanced perfectly with all of the rich, sweet and savoury notes, including some pepper, alongside some dried fruits.
There’s also a little bit of oak, and the finish is a little smoky and chewy – nice ending to a very good dram. The real difference is that this time round we got it in the bottle – previously the 12 Year Old was only available in the dram.
Fragrant and spicy with smokiness and a little salt, the nose of the Lagavulin 12 is full of sweet and savoury notes. The palate carries over all of the delicious matured oak notes from the nose, vanilla and tobacco then forming the core of the Lagavulin 12. Added to that there’s citrus and sweet notes, charcoal, ginger and ginger ale, and some pepper, while the slightly peaty background is present as well.
There’s a good amount of peat and leather leather, and the Lagavulin 12 is a rich, slightly sweet and very lovely dram. I thought that the Lagavulin 12 was a little stronger on the smoke than the 12 YO, and it returns to that with its 12YO replacement. As with the 12YO, none of that is pronounced on the palate, where there are just the right notes of oak and sweet and smoky, which wash over your mouth like waves.
Our last Lagavulin 12, while probably somewhere in the top third of the range, was vastly inferior to the ten year old from our friends the Isleofloch, and this version is even better. As with the Islay malts, the lagavulin 12 is full of complexity, with lots of layers and complexity, but it’s blended so that it never feels too over the top and one dimensional. It’s just right, and one of the best from Diageo.
The nose is exactly the same from the 12YO, with vanilla, wheat and a little pepper – the main difference this time around is that it was in a bottle instead of a dram glass. It’s more complex, with brown sugar, coffee and tobacco amongst the notes, and underneath there’s some peat and the expected honey and dried fruit.
The palate is sweet and fruity, with tropical fruit notes and some more peat, while the rum barrel also comes through on the finish, with a mix of oak, pepper, cinnamon and salt. There’s a hint of sweetness to this dram as well, and it fights off the usual spice and peat that you get from the 12YO.
The 12YO has a long finish, but where the Lagavulin 12 pulls ahead is in the finish, where it has more smokiness, some pepper and a peatier rum really kicking things off the finish. As with the Lagavulin 10, the 12YO is a smokier and more peaty dram, while the 12YO is a gentle, sweeter dram, but it’s very similar all the same.
The nose of the 12YO is intense, with all of the key notes for that expression – iodine, earth and peat, alongside rich sweet notes of honey, dried fruits and some peat. The nose may be a little more massive than last year’s bottling, but the palate is as good as before.
The Lagavulin 12 is not the same as its predecessor, though – there’s more spice here, but the oak, chocolate and vanilla still form the core of the dram. It’s sweet, but underneath there’s a little bit of peat and some smoke and pepper – not to say that those aren’t there, but these elements are present but played down slightly. It’s a more complex dram, and it’s good.
The peat is more prominent here, and while the whisky used for the 12YO and 12YO may be a touch lighter, the result is the same. It’s a complex, lovely dram, which benefits from the different cask, and it is something different to the 10 year old and the 12YO.