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Macallan vs Lagavulin Scotch Whiskies Compared (2024 Best Edition)

Macallan vs Lagavulin 

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Macallan and Lagavulin are two of the whisky favorites by many Scotch lovers. 

Though there are similarities between these two spirit brands, what do you think will make one stand out from the other?

Before you choose between these two Scotches, let’s compare Macallan vs Lagavulin to find out which has the edge. Let’s start.

Macallan vs Lagavulin: What’s the Difference Between Lagavulin 16 & Macallan 12? 

Lagavulin 16 Scotch Whisky Bottle and a Glass

Macallan 12 is a type of Speyside whisky that undergoes distillation at the Strathspey — situated around the River Spey in northeastern Scotland.

This single malt whisky from the Speyside region is known for its incredibly smooth and easy-to-drink character and low smoke level. 

On the other hand, Lagavulin 16 is a type of Islay whisky that is also produced in Scotland.

But this Scotch is known for its rich smoky notes due to the peat used to dry its malted barley. 

Both are aged using American oak barrels. However, Lagavulin is aged for 16 years using Kentucky ex-bourbon barrels, which impart strong and tasty notes. 

In comparison, Macallan 12 is aged for 12 years using a combo of American and European ex-sherry casks, creating a sweeter spirit.  

Overall, Lagavulin 16 requires some expertise to enjoy, unlike the Macallan 12, which is already drinkable and smooth. 

Let’s Take A Closer Look 


Palate, Nose & Finish

The Macallan 12 features a rich and flavorful profile with a faint chocolate note, hints of spice, and a bit of warmth at the finish. 

It’s a good blend of sweet and savory flavors that will keep you satisfied as it goes down.

The Lagavulin 12 features a strong aroma of sea salt and smoke. Its flavor is rich with a burst of smoke, sweet caramel, and fruity and vanilla notes. 

But it has a very good balance of flavors. 

Read: Macallan vs Glenlivet


Lagavulin 16 is high proof with an alcohol content of 43% ABV (bottled at 86 proof), while the Macallan 12 contains the standard alcohol content — of 40% ABV (bottled at 80 proof). 

However, Macallan 12 is also bottled at 43% ABV for the American market.  


Lagavulin distillery

Although both distilleries originated in Scotland, the Lagavulin Distillery was the first to be established in 1816 by Archibald Campbell and John Johnston. 

The facility was located within the Lagavulin village on the South Coast of Islay Island in Scotland.

After several years of transferring ownership, Lagavulin is now under Diageo, a multinational spirit company.  

8 years later (1824), the Macallan Estate was established by Alexander Reid in Craigellachie, Moray, a northeastern region in Scotland. 

The brand’s name is derived from the word “Magh,” which means fertile ground, and “Ellan,” the monk who used to work in a church that used to be in the place of the Macallan Estate now. 


Macallan earned the Double Gold Medal at the 2017’s San Francisco World Spirit Competition. 

At the same time, Macallan has received 95 points rating and a gold medal from the 2017’s International Review of Spirits Tasting. 

Conversely, Lagavulin earned six Double Gold Medals at the World Spirit Competition (San Francisco). 

Besides, it was named the “Best Single Malt Whisky” by the same award-giving body in 2013. 

Production Process

Macallan Distillery Copper Stills

Since Macallan and Lagavulin are both single-malt whiskies [1], they share the same production process. 

After collecting the barley, exclusively grown in Scotland, it will be malted and fermented to turn the sugar into alcohol. 

Next, the spirits will undergo distillation – mixing and heating the water and mash, which produces the alcoholic vapor.

Then, it will be cooled to be ready for the aging process.

“There’s no shortcut in whisky to make good product.”

— Sean McGlone, Managing Director at Whisky Auctioneer 

The only difference here is the method of their aging process. 

Lagavulin uses former bourbon barrels, while the Macallan uses American oak and Sherry wine casks, creating distinct whisky flavors. 

Price Comparison

Lagavulin 16 is priced higher than Macallan 12. 

The Macallan 12 costs only around $50 per 750ml (MSRP), while the Lagavulin 16 costs around $99 /750ml (MSRP) or higher, depending on the liquor store. 

Read: How To Drink Macallan

Are There Similarities Between Macallan 12 & Lagavulin 16?

Macallan 12 Double Cask Bottle with box and glass

One of the most striking similarities between the two is that they’re both single-malt whisky expressions. 

Besides, they’re produced from malted barley from a single distillery within Scotland. 

Additionally, both the Macallan 12 and Lagavulin 16 used American oak barrels for aging. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which is a better sipping whisky, Macallan or Lagavulin?

Determining which whisky is better for sipping, Macallan or Lagavulin, ultimately depends on personal taste preferences and desired flavor profiles. Both Macallan and Lagavulin are esteemed Scotch whisky brands, each offering distinct characteristics that appeal to different whisky enthusiasts:

Macallan: Known for its smoothness, complexity, and rich flavors, Macallan whiskies are often enjoyed as sipping whiskies due to their refined and balanced profiles. Macallan whiskies typically feature notes of dried fruits, spices, oak, and honey, with a velvety texture and long, satisfying finish. The brand’s attention to quality, craftsmanship, and aging in exceptional sherry-seasoned oak casks contributes to the overall luxurious drinking experience of Macallan whiskies.

Lagavulin: Renowned for its intense smokiness, depth of flavor, and maritime character, Lagavulin whiskies are favored by those who appreciate bold and robust flavors. While Lagavulin whiskies can certainly be sipped and enjoyed neat, their powerful smokiness and complex palate make them a more adventurous choice for sipping. Lagavulin whiskies often feature flavors of peat smoke, brine, iodine, and oak, with a lingering and satisfying finish that leaves a lasting impression.

Ultimately, whether Macallan or Lagavulin is considered a better sipping whisky depends on individual taste preferences and the desired drinking experience.

Which is stronger, Lagavulin or Macallan?

In terms of alcohol content, Lagavulin and Macallan whiskies typically have similar strengths, with most expressions falling within the standard range for Scotch whisky, which is typically around 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).

However, when considering strength in terms of flavor intensity and character, Lagavulin whiskies are often perceived as stronger due to their bold and robust flavors, particularly their intense smokiness and complex palate.

Macallan whiskies, while equally high in quality and craftsmanship, tend to have a smoother and more refined profile, making them a gentler option for those who prefer a milder drinking experience.

What are Macallan and Lagavulin?

Macallan and Lagavulin are both esteemed Scotch whisky brands, each with its own rich history, tradition, and loyal following:

Macallan: Founded in 1824, Macallan is renowned for its exceptional single malt Scotch whiskies, which are produced in the heart of Speyside, Scotland. Macallan whiskies are characterized by their rich flavors, smooth textures, and complex profiles, which are the result of aging in exceptional sherry-seasoned oak casks and a commitment to quality and craftsmanship.

Lagavulin: Established in 1816, Lagavulin is celebrated for its iconic single malt Scotch whiskies, which are produced on the rugged shores of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland. Lagavulin whiskies are known for their intense smokiness, depth of flavor, and maritime character, which are achieved through traditional production methods and aging in oak casks.

How are Macallan and Lagavulin different from each other? 

Macallan and Lagavulin whiskies offer distinct characteristics that set them apart from each other:

Flavor Profile: Macallan whiskies are known for their rich and complex flavors, with notes of dried fruits, spices, oak, and honey, while Lagavulin whiskies are prized for their intense smokiness, maritime character, and bold palate of peat smoke, brine, and iodine.

Production Region: Macallan whiskies are produced in the Speyside region of Scotland, known for its lush landscapes and smooth, elegant whiskies, while Lagavulin whiskies are produced on the island of Islay, renowned for its rugged coastline and robust, peaty whiskies.

Aging Process: Macallan whiskies are aged in exceptional sherry-seasoned oak casks, which impart rich flavors and a smooth texture to the spirit, while Lagavulin whiskies undergo traditional aging processes, including maturation in oak casks, to develop their intense smokiness and complex palate.

Overall, while both Macallan and Lagavulin are esteemed Scotch whisky brands, they offer unique interpretations of the whisky-making craft, catering to different taste preferences and occasions.

Macallan and Lagavulin: Which one is smoother?

Macallan is generally smoother because it has a milder taste compared to the strong smokiness of Lagavulin.

Are Macallan and Lagavulin expensive?

Both can be expensive, but Macallan is often a bit more expensive than Lagavulin because it’s very popular.

When should I drink Macallan and Lagavulin?

Macallan is great for sipping on special occasions or with dessert. Lagavulin is better enjoyed when you want a strong, smoky flavor.

Can I mix Macallan and Lagavulin in cocktails? 

While some people might try mixing them, it’s generally better to enjoy them straight or with a little water to appreciate their unique flavors.

Are there special versions of Macallan and Lagavulin available? 

Yes, both Macallan and Lagavulin release special versions from time to time, which can offer different tastes and experiences.

Key Takeaways 

Macallan and Lagavulin differ in tasting notes, alcohol content, price, and the aging process. 

If you want your whisky high-proof with powerful smoke notes and more mature, opt for the Lagavulin 16. However, it’s quite pricey. 

But if you’re a beginner and want some affordable, light, and drinkable whisky, opt for the Macallan 12.  


  1. Single malt whiskies expected to triple in price next year
  2. The Macallan Unveils Double Cask 12 Years Old
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