Whisky Review: 2021 Lagavulin The Distillers Edition

, | May 9, 2022

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Diageo. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

In movies a good director’s cut accomplishes a couple of things. You get a bit more of what you love, maybe a surprise or two, and maybe some more character development that wasn’t in the original. This applies to a good distiller’s edition as well. This review is one of several reviews looking at the 2021 Classic Malts Distillers Editions from Diageo, click here for the other reviews in this series. This product line all starts by being aged in a barrel that is re-charred American oak with “crocodile-skin” charred new American oak ends. Then each distillery uses a different style of fortified wine to finish their spirit.

Here I look closer at the 2021 Lagavulin The Distillers Edition. Lagavulin is a distillery located in a town of the same name on the island of Islay. It is a distillery known for its heavy peat and rich flavor profiles. Their flagship product is the Lagavulin 16-year-old Islay Single Malt Scotch. While Lagavulin was officially licensed in 1816 there are records showing illegal operations as far back as 1742. Their production is known for its slow distillation and pear shaped stills. You can read about this and more in a good overview of their distillery on whisky.com.

This distiller’s edition from 2021 features a distillate from 2006 finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Pedro Ximenez is a grape used in the sherry of the same name. The grapes are either picked young or sun dried to intensify the flavor and sweetness. This is one of the sweetest sherries you will taste. Normal flavors associated with it are sweet notes of raisin and fig with dryer flavors of spices and chocolate. Barrels from production of this wine, as with many sherries, often make their way to Scotland for finishing whisky. 

Now I should note Lagavulin is what got me into whisky. My first sip of their flagship product triggered a sense memory that had me sitting fireside with my dad on one of our many camping trips growing up. That rich smoke will always be associated with campfires for me. Lagavulin has always had a spot on my bar. The past distiller’s editions have always been a special treat that I look to get a pour of while I am out celebrating. 

So how does 2021’s release hold up to my past experiences with Lagavulin? Well, it did not disappoint.

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 2021 review

Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition 2021 (image via Diageo)

Tasting Notes: 2021 Lagavulin The Distiller’s Edition

Vital Stats: 43% ABV. Distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2021. Double matured in American oak and ex-Pedro Ximenex casks. MSRP of $129.95 per 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is a lovely clear amber. Legs take a very long time to develop.

Nose: This smells like a sweet campfire or a barbecue. There are heavy notes of smoking vegetation with hints of toffee, caramel, and raisin backing it up.

Palate: This is delicious and complex whisky that you can chew on. The flavor profile starts off with a sweet caramel quality that develops into a rich barbecue flavor with a touch of spice. There is a touch of the medicinal right before transitioning to the finish that certainly won’t be for everyone. The finish starts off with just a touch of cocoa and leaves you with dried fruit and a touch of tobacco. The flavor profile, start to finish, is backed up by a lovely amount of peaty smoke that is a bit more mellow than the traditional 16-year-old. 



Once again, the Lagavulin The Distillers Edition knocks it out of the park for me. While peated whisky isn’t for everyone, this has always been a standout in the category for me. If you enjoy Lagavulin or some of the cask finished Islay whiskies, I highly recommend trying this year’s release, or any of them really.

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Ian Arnold

Ian Arnold was a bartender for 8 years. Having worked in California, Australia, and Portland, he last bartended at the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library. He was part of the Oregon Bartenders' Guild's leadership and was a judge for multiple cocktail competitions. He now works in the IT field and continues to...