Review // LAGAVULIN 12 (Diageo “Rare by Nature” 2019 Special Releases)

December 11, 2019

In early autumn, Diageo delighted us with the 2019 Special Releases of 8 classic whisky brands from some of the most renowned distilleries in Scotland. These cask strength single malt Scotch whiskies were hand selected by Master Blender Dr. Craig Wilson. Dubbed “Rare by Nature“, the focus of these whiskies, both aesthetically and olifactory, lies on the rugged, pure landscapes Scotland has to offer. I already reviewed the 15 year old Talisker (check it out here) and now, it’s time for my review of the 12 year old Lagavulin.

Magnificent design! Photo credit:

Matured in refill American oak casks, the Lagavulin 12 tastes like a ‘dialeddownexpression, fitting in nicely next to its strong big brother (Lagavulin 16), and the sage pater familias which is the Distiller’s Edition: Sufficiently peated, with a focus on more delicateness and some of the layeredness of more sophisticated expressions. It is also less ‘strong’ than I expected, even at 56.5 % ABV!

The first couple of sips offered up delicate smoke, which fully developed in my mouth and nose. It felt like I was indulging in wood smoke, without suffocating due to lack of oxygen. This, then, moved into an earthy sensation. I was being reminded of a very specific experience: the scent of wet mulched wood, mixed with dirt. If you have ever tried to dig out a couple of two-by-fours that were in the ground for too long, you probably know what I’m talking about. I’m a sucker for these kind of scents. Another memory that I was reminded of is the scent of fallen leaves that have started to mold due to exposure to wind and rain. Don’t be scared of that image. It’s the scent of autumn, the scent of nature. And it’s the perfect companion to the smokiness of this Lagavulin expression.

As my dram was able to ‘breathe’ a bit more, I noticed more aspects of vegetation on my palate. The peat and smoke are layers in this expression, and they are nicely balanced. Neither of them is overpowering the other one. With a more delicate finish than the Lagavulin 16, this Special Release can be categorized as an ‘easy-to-drink’ Lagavulin. Don’t get me wrong. You still have the high quality that you can expect from such a strong and highly-praised brand. This expression is simply more versatile, and will be able to please those who are normally inclined to ignore peated whiskies.

Ever started a campfire in the rain? If at first, you don’t succeed, have a dram, and try again! Photo credit: Nagualero

Now, I know there are already plenty of whiskies which are deemed ‘perfect to drink in autumn‘, but I would like to add the Lagavulin 12 to the collection. Imagine a downpour, and you’re on the porch. Wouldn’t you like to have a whisky that makes you relate to the world around you? Dirt, smoke, peat, leaves, rain, all blended together in a dram that makes me want to put on my raincoat and stand outside for a bit.

If you are interested in reading more about my love for Lagavulin, why not check out my ‘whisky story’ on Lagavulin and Nick Offerman here.

I want to review the Offerman Edition… Photo credit:

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