And after all those years, it should be of no surprise that they have mastered the art of distilling. To celebrate their successes, their current owners, Diageo, have included them in their recent Special Releases collection.
Brought out in 2015, this is a range that explores all the best of what Diageo has to offer, and considering they have so many distilleries under their belts, it is a testament to Lagavulin, and this expression, that they made the cut.
Some of the rare and never before tried malts include a 32 Year Old Port Ellen and a 40 Year Old Caledonian, known as The Cally, that has never been released to the public before now.
So the Lagavulin 12 Year Old has a lot to live up to, and that is exactly what it does.
This is a dram that packs a full Islay punch; it sacrifices nothing in its pursuit of peated perfection.
The nose opens with a soot covered fruit bowl of flavours and undertones. The peat is obvious from the get go but the sweet, saccharine notes of pears and apples underneath give it a nice background.
It is refined and sophisticated, with red leather and mahogany jumping out.
There are also notes of chilli spice that give it a warmth and depth. This ties in well with the peat and fruit, giving the nose a spicy sweetness to finish with.
On the palate these flavours are blown up, almost literally considering the amount of smoke in this dram.
It is full of peat smoke and burnt wood, beckoning the image of a bonfire with first taste. It is quite pungent to begin with, but slows as it goes along and is joined by sweeter tastes that it is able to breath through.
Fruit and sweet desserts join the smoke, giving it a nice depth. Powdered sugar and bitter dark chocolate undertones are also present to offset the tang of the peat.
The dark chocolate gives a smooth mouth feel and this is developed into a salty caramel. The salt becomes richer and invokes Lagavulin’s rugged coastal home of Islay.
The oaky barrels make an appearance at the end, tying the smoke evermore into that bonfire image and giving the caramel a vanilla edge.
This dram finishes well, with a strong final kick of smoke and some salt and liquorice to round off.
This is an expression that many will want to see more of, despite its limited edition status. Hopefully Diageo get the message and treat us to some more!