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Lagavulin vs Laphroaig Scotch Whiskies Compared (2023)

Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Lydia Martin

For Islay whisky enthusiasts, you might be torn between two brands at some point – Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

While both Laphroaig and Lagavulin produce single malts, there are clear distinctions between the two that can make or break your decision. 

So in this Lagavulin vs Laphroaig comparison, let’s look at their differences – from their history, flagship expressions, tasting notes, production, pricing, and everything you need to know. 

Main Differences Between Laphroaig & Lagavulin 

Bottles of Lagavulin and Laphroaig on a blue background

Both distilleries come from the Island of Islay in Scotland. 

The Lagavulin Distillery and Laphroaig Distillery specialize in crafting heavily medicinal, smoky, and peaty whiskies. 

However, Lagavulin is under Diageo [1] PLC, one of the company’s “Classic Malts,” while Laphroaig is under Suntory Holdings.

Laphroaig offers numerous whiskies in their selection, greater than Lagavulin’s Scotch whiskey expressions.

Laphroaig is easily available compared to the spirits from Lagavulin, which are rarely seen by the public. 

Let’s Compare 

Origin & Ownership

Lagavulin Distillery

The origins of Lagavulin can be traced back to 1816. 

It was owned by Archibald Campbell Brooks and John Johnston, and the spirits from the brand were crafted by Peter Mackie, who crafted the White Horse Blend. 

In 1997, the Lagavulin (the same as Caol Ila) was acquired by a multinational company, Diageo.

Then, in 2014, a triple-matured version of the brand was created and joined the “Friends of Classic Malts” collection.

Earlier the Laphroaig was established in 1815 by Alexander and Donald Johnston. 

The facility on the south coast of Islay (where the Port Ellen Distillery lies) was created after Scottish laws were changed to permit the alcohol distillation process.

The brand had many notable moments, such as when it established itself as a global brand in 1929 until King Charles of the United Kingdom visited twice in 1994 and 2008. It is one of the oldest known Scottish distilleries.

And after several years of ownership from different individuals and companies, Beam Inc. acquired Laphroaig in 2011 until Suntory Holdings purchased it in 2014 [2]. 

Price Comparison

The Lagavulin Scotch whiskies are on the higher side regarding their pricing. Their single malt whisky variations range from around $60 to $3000.

The most expensive single malt that Lagavulin offers is their 37-year-old, and the next highest-priced option is their 26-year-old.

The 8-year-old is the most affordable at around $60 per 750ml (MSRP). 

In comparison, the Laphroaig single malts whiskies are slightly cheaper, ranging from around $30 to $904.

The most expensive option is the 20-year-old Artist #11, priced at around $904 per 750ml (MSRP), and the most affordable expression is the Quarter Cask, priced at around $30 per 750ml (MSRP).

Flagship Expression

laphroaig bottle with 2 glasses

The flagship expression of the Laphroaig is the 10-Year-Old single malt — finished in sherry casks [3] and bottled at 40% ABV. 

And some of the notable Scotch whisky from Laphroaig include the Select whisky, PX Cask, Triple Wood, the Cairdeas series, and older whiskies like the 18-Year-Old and 25-Year-Old. 

On the other hand, the flagship expression of Lagavulin is the Lagavulin 16-Year-Old single malt, a heavily peated whiskey – aged in oak casks and bottled at 43% ABV.

Other notable whisky expressions include the 12-Year-Old Cask Strength, the 2006 Distillers Edition, the 8-Year-Old 200th Anniversary Edition, and the original 8-Year-Old whisky. 

Read: Ardbeg vs Laphroaig Scotch Whiskies

Nose, Palate & Finish

On the nose, Lagavulin has smoky notes and an oak-fire taste compared to the clear sea and bonfire-like scent of Laphroaig. 

Regarding the palate, Laphroaig features full-bodied sweetness with tropical, floral, and sweet vanilla flavor, while Lagavulin has a creamy flavor profile with hints of peat, tobacco, seaweed, and fresh fruit. 

Both deliver a long-lasting finish, but there are peat and spicy notes on Lagavulin, compared to Laphroaig’s sweet and peat notes.

But between the two, Lagavulin has a softer finish. 

Production

Bottle of Lagavulin 11

Lagavulin and Laphroaig are single malt whisky expressions made from pure malted barley sourced from a single distillery within the Island of Islay in Scotland. 

But with the Laphroaig whisky, along with the barley, are yeast and water to create the whisky. Then, the spirit is aged using ex-bourbon barrels for added flavor.

“There are three main ingredients for making Laphroaig – Barley, Water, and Yeast, but the secret ingredient is the People” Distiller.

— Iain Henderson, Head

As for Lagavulin, along with the malted barley are peat and water from Solan Lochs, sourced from west of the Islay island (where Caol Ila and Port Charlotte Distillery lies). 

The final whisky is then aged using ex-bourbon barrels to get some added flavors.  

Cocktail Use

While you can both of these whisky expressions in cocktails, depending on your preference, it is recommended to drink them neat or with a few drops of water.

Adding water or ice will open the full flavors of these spirits, but adding too much will affect the overall taste of these drinks. 

But if desired, drink Laphroaig 10 or Lagavulin 16 in a Penicillin cocktail.  

Awards

The Lagavulin 16-Year-Old has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the “Best Single Malt Whisky” at the World Spirits Competition (San Francisco) in 2013 and earning a total of six Double Gold Medals within the same competition.

Laphroaig 10-Year-Old, on the other hand, has received awards and recognitions, including the Gold medal at the 2019 World Spirits Competition (San Francisco) and being recognized as the 2019’s Best Single Malt Scotch 10 Years & Under by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible [4].

Are There Similarities Between Lagavulin vs Laphroaig?

close up image of Laphroaig Bottles

Yes, there are similarities between these two expressions, including: 

  1. They’re aged using ex-bourbon barrels.
  2. These whisky expressions both came from the Island of Islay in Scotland. 
  3. They have strong peated notes. So if you’re new to this type of whisky, this can be a bit harsh. 
  4. Both are single malts made from pure barley and distilled in pot stills.  

FAQs

Which is smokier Laphroaig or Lagavulin?

Lagavulin is smokier due to its powerful smoky profile. Although it has some sweetness, the spice of the smoke dominates the flavor profile. 

Is Lagavulin smoky or peaty?

Lagavulin is smoky due to its tobacco and peat notes. But, it has hints of subtle sweetness due to the fresh fruit and seaweed notes. 

Is Laphroaig smoky or peaty?

Laphroaig is peaty due to its robust peaty tang with notes of iodine. But it has a sweeter malt flavor. 

Key Takeaways 

There is no clear winner in this Lagavulin vs Laphroaig comparison as they serve different whisky preferences. 

If you’re a beginner in peated whiskies, then Laphroaig 10yo is the better choice. It is a lighter expression with the right amount of smokiness and quality. 

Besides, it is more affordable and suitable as an everyday whisky.  

But if you’re used to the whisky flavoring, go for Lagavulin 16yo. It has rich smoke, exceptional complexity, and a better balance of spiciness and sweetness.

However, it is on the premium side but perfect for special occasions. 

References:

  1. https://www.marketingdive.com/news/lagavulin-nick-offerman-whisky-scotch-charred-oak/634025/ 
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/13/japan-suntory-buys-jim-beam-bourbon-scotch-whisky 
  3. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/laphroaig-unveils-10-year-old-sherry-oak-finish-301261516.html 
  4. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10297487/Jim-Murrays-wrote-Whisky-Bible-cancelled-comparing-fine-malts-sensual-lovers.html 

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