My bottle of Lagavulin 12yo Cask Strength arrived today from the UK. In excitement I ripped open the packaging, poured a dram and kicked back half of it... big mistake. Not nearly as smooth as Lagavulin 16 which I anticipated. After letting it breath for 20 minutes I tried again... much better.
Lagavulin 12 is definitely for sipping neat like however 1 part water to 2 parts malt makes a nice change. If drank neat small sips mellow better when mixed with saliva than Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength (red stripe).
It's been over a week since I tried my first bottle of Laphroaig 10 CS. I think the Laphroaig tastes more peaty initially than Lagavulin 12 however I'll need to do a side by side comparison again when I have a chance
The vanilla overtones of Laphroaig 10 CS make me prefer it over Lagavulin 12 on first impression. Both are very oily and hug the tongue. On the finish I like Lagavulin 12yo over Laphroaig 10 CS as it has a longer smokier/peatier and less bitter finish. Both are great in the liquorice category (Laphroaig has a tad more). Lagavulin 12 has more salt like the earlier 16 White Horse.
Compared to Lagavulin 16 (new Port Ellen) the 12yo CS is drier with less sherry overtones. It definitely packs more smoke/peat/salt like the older Lagavulin 16 White Horse bottlings. I really hope they let the majority of this 12 year old batch mature to 16 years of age!
Conclusion: Laphroaig 10 CS is a better value per dollar than Lagavulin 12 CS. Lagavulin 12 CS has a better finish but that's it. I'll be drinking Laphroaig 10 CS until the price of Lagavulin 12 CS comes down a bit. Don't spend more than 100.00 US on Lagavulin 12 CS unless you intend to save the first bottlings as a collectors item. If both were the same price I would drink both
Disclaimer: I'm an amature single malt drinker considering all I ever drank was Lagavulin16 White Horse back in 1994-95. I've tried quite a few other single malts in the past however I use Islays like Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Laphroaig as my point of reference.