Lagavulin 12, 2021 Release

There was a time when the Lagavulin 12 was another annual release—along with the Laphroaig Cairdeas—that I purchased every year; it was certainly the only member of Diageo’s annual special release about which that could be said. But I haven’t purchased a bottle since 2017. The following year—as I have doubtless noted before—is when the price of this release went up sharply, and it also became harder to find in stores in the US. I have managed to get my hands on some each year via bottle splits, however, and so have been able to remain more or less current with it (I’m yet to review the 2014 and 2015 releases though I do have bottles of those in my stash). The 2022 Special Release roster should be on shelves soon. I’m not expecting to buy the 2022 iteration either but am hopeful I’ll be able to review it anyway at some point. The 2021 edition had a lion on the label and bore the sobriquet “The Lion’s Fire”—we can only hope the fire did not emerge from the rear. And no, it’s not a hint of it being a sherry cask either. This is from refill bourbon casks (all the Lagavulin 12s have been ex-bourbon, I believe—please correct me if I’m wrong). Price and marketing shenanigans aside, the Lagavulin 12 has always been quality whisky and some releases have been truly excellent. Let’s see where this one falls.

Speaking of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, do any of my Minnesota whisky readers (if I still have any) know if the 2022 release has yet landed in our stores?

Lagavulin 12, 2021 Release (56.5%; refill American oak casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Big peat, unsurprisingly, but it’s not as bright/carbolic as some of the earlier releases. Instead, some organic and then meaty notes and light tar to start. On the second sniff lemon and salt crystals begin to emerge and they then come to the fore. Some vanilla sweetness as well. The organic notes move in a slightly rooty direction with time. A few drops of water releases a lot of ham brine along with preserved lemon and charred pineapple.

Palate: Comes in with salt and the organic peat with cracked pepper—and a lot of it—emerging as I swallow. Very approachable at full strength with rich texture. The lemon emerges along with brighter smoke as it sits and those meaty notes from the nose are also here. No vanilla here to speak of. More char (both wood and pork) and more salt with time. Water melds everything together perfectly, emphasizing the coastal notes.

Finish: Long. The cracked pepper expands, picking up char and then tar. Salt again at the end. As it sits it becomes quite phenolic at the end. With time the citrus—think smoked lemons—hangs out longer into the finish. As on the palate with time and water.

Comments: This is rather lovely, especially with water. Another of those whiskies that makes you wonder if a premium price for a 12 yo whisky is a good deal in the abstract when it is this good.

Rating: 90 points.



13 thoughts on “Lagavulin 12, 2021 Release

  1. According to the Diageo website, your review is of “The Lion’s Fire” which was the 2021 release at 56.5%. From the website, it looks like the 2022 release will feature a phoenix on the label, but I can’t tell for certain. “This year it comes from a combination of virgin oak casks and their smokiest reserves. Lagavulin dialed up to 11 in terms of smoke and spice. Bottled at 57.3% ABV.” Ugh.


  2. Regarding the Laphroiag Cairdeas, not sure it’s in MN ( I’m in NJ), but I’d be happy to send over a sample pour. Try before you buy a bottle.


  3. Both Ace Spirits in Hopkins and Liquor Boy in West End have (or at least at one point had) it! It is disappointing that the price has up to 100.00 now but I actually like it a lot.


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