A single malt whisky is an elite form of whisky made by a single distillery. Although some single malts may be made from whisky from different casks, the main requirement is that it comes from a single distillery.
Single malts can be peated or unpeated, with both our focus brands using peat in their whisky production. Lagavulin and Ardbeg both distill single malt whisky with peat added during production.
In this article, we are going to pick apart Lagavulin vs Ardbeg whisky by looking at their history, differences, similarities, and products available.
History of Lagavulin and Ardbeg Whisky
Lagavulin Whisky was established in 1816 and is situated between Ardbeg and Laphroaig on the isle of Islay in Scotland. This distillery is situated on the south coast of the island, Kildation, and began operations in 1816 which was the same year in which private alcohol distillation was legalized.
Since its inception, it has had many owners the first after the Lagavulin family being John Logan Mackie who bought the distillery in 1862. He, unfortunately, passed away with his nephew Peter J. Mackie, taking over production in the late 18th century. By the late 19th century, Mackie was a well-known presence in the single malt market.
Lagavulin was then bought by many other figures, with Diageo buying the distillery in 1997. This followed various ownerships and name changes, with the distillery now going by Lagavulin Distillers.
One of their single malts, the 16-year-old variation, joined Diageo’s Classic Malt collection in 1988
Ardbeg Whisky was established in 1815 on the isle of Islay in Scotland in the small settlement of Ardbeg. It was founded by McDougall & Co, with their operations beginning in 1817.
John McDougall then bought the distillery in 1825 when the partnership with the rest of the company dissolved. John McDougall was succeeded by his son, also named John, in 1835 with the family owning the distillery until 1855 when it was bought by the Ramsay family.
It has continued to go through various ownership changes over the following years with the brand eventually expanding sales into America in the early 1900s.
The brand is now owned by the LVMH group (Louis-Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy) which is a French holding company with a large range of luxury brands included in their holdings.
LVMH bought Ardbeg in 2005 after the brand has gone through a rocky patch. Ardbeg has since had multiple whiskies win awards, with the brand winning World Whiskies Awards in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
How Are They Made?
Single malt Scotch whisky is made in a multi-step process that includes everything from harvesting and collecting the ingredients to aging and bottling the result. First, the barley is harvested, and the water and peat are collected.
Malting and mashing the barley is the first step during production, with the barley steeped in water and spread across a malting floor. This allows the barley to germinate and convert the starch within the barley into sugar. Yeast is added which then converts the sugar into an alcohol base for the whisky.
This barley is then dried with some distilleries, like Lagavulin and Ardbeg, adding peat to create a smoke flavor. distillation is the next step where the whisky is distilled in (often) copper pot stills which produce an alcohol vapor. The vapor is collected and cooled which creates the whisky.
It is then aged in oak barrels to infuse the liquid with an amber color and some tasting notes. According to law, Scotch whisky must be aged for a minimum of 3 years in these ok barrels in Scotland. Some casks can add a deep amber color while others produce a light, straw-colored whisky.
What Are They Made of?
Lagavulin and Ardbeg both have malted barley as their main ingredient. The barley is malted using spring water and yeast which helps during the fermentation process. Peat is added to the fire to smoke the barley, leaving peat as a primary aroma, and tasting note in both whiskies.
Ardbeg sources their barley from Port Ellen while Lagavulin sources their barley from the isle of Islay. Lagavulin also sources their water from the Solan Lochs and the peat is sourced from the pet bogs on the western end of the Island.
How Are They Similar?
Both Ardbeg and Lagavulin originate from the isle of Islay in Scotland, with each brand’s distillery established in the area they are named after. They have some similar tasting notes of sweet peat and other sweet notes, with Lagavulin having a main flavor of mahogany while Ardbeg’s main notes are citrus.
Another similarity between the brands is that both are made from malted barley with peat added to the smoke. This gives the whiskies the unique flavor they have, with Ardbeg having a higher peat level (55 to 65 ppm) than Lagavulin (35 ppm).
The final similarity between the whiskies is the alcohol content, at 43% for Lagavulin and 46% for Ardbeg.
Direct Comparison of Lagavulin Vs Ardbeg Whisky
|Item||Lagavulin Whisky||Ardbeg Whisky|
|Production Area||Lagavulin, Isle of Islay, Scotland||Ardbeg, Isle of Islay, Scotland|
|Raw Ingredients||Malted Barley, water, yeast||Malted barley, yeast, water|
|Alcohol by Volume (ABV)||43% (86 proof)||46% (92 proof)|
|Taste||Smoked peat, sweet notes, sea salt, mahogany||Sweet peat, caramel, pepper, chili, coal|
|Color||Light gold to deep amber depending on the variation||Light gold|
Lagavulin Whisky Variations
Lagavulin has 12 whisky options available with differing alcohol contents and prices, to having different aging times. This whisky is aged in oak barrels and has a color of light gold (for the younger whiskies) to deep amber (for the older variations).
|Item||Average Price||Alcohol content|
|Lagavulin 11-Year-Old Offerman Edition Single Malt||$83||46% (92 proof)|
|Lagavulin 7-Year-Old Islay Jazz Festival 2022 Single Malt||$113||55,4% (110,8 proof)|
|Lagavulin 12-Year-Old Special Release 2022 Single Malt||$50||57,3% (114,6 proof)|
|Lagavulin 10-Year-Old||$95||43% (86 proof)|
|Lagavulin 16-Year-Old Single Malt||$98||43% (86 proof)|
|Lagavulin 8-Year-Old Single Malt||$70||48% (96 proof)|
|Lagavulin 12-Year-Old Special Release 2021 Single Malt||$155||56,5% 113 proof)|
|Lagavulin 8-Year-Old 200th Anniversary Edition||$84||48% (96 proof)|
|Lagavulin 26-Year-Old Special Release 2021 Single Malt||$2 151||44,2% (88,4 proof)|
|Lagavulin 37-Year-Old Single Malt||$3 000||51% (102 proof)|
|Lagavulin 9-Year-Old House of Lannister||$95||46% (92 proof)|
|Lagavulin 2006 Distillers Edition||$125||43% (86 proof)|
Ardbeg Whiskey Variations
Ardbeg has 10 whisky variations available with ranging alcohol contents across the variations. These whiskies have differing tasting notes making some of them better suited for someone than others although there is an option available for most taste ranges.
|Item||Average Price||Alcohol content|
|Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5-Years-Old||$49||46,4% (94,8 proof)|
|Ardbeg An Oa||$62||46,6% (93,2 proof)|
|Ardbeg 8-Years-Old for Discussion||$175||50,8% (101,6 proof)|
|Ardbeg Uigeadail||$85||54,2% (108,4 proof)|
|Ardbeg Corryvreckan||$99||57,1% (114,2 proof)|
|Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-Years-Old Batch No. 4||$323||46,2% (92,4 proof)|
|Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-Years-Old Batch No. 3||$320||46,2% (92,4 proof)|
|Ardbeg 25-Years-Old||$1 165||46% (92 proof)|
|Ardbeg Ardcore Committee Release||$197||50,1% (100,2 proof)|
|Ardbeg Ardcore Limited Edition||$130||46% (92 proof)|
How To Drink Lagavulin and Ardbeg Whiskey
Single malt whisky, as an elite alcoholic beverage, should be drunk neat (without ice) or with a light splash of water. The water will help open the flavor of the beverage, but you should ensure there is no more than a 20:80 ratio of water to whisky as it will water down the beverage too much.
According to whisky connoisseurs, single malt should be drunk from rocks or whisky glass. Pour 1 to 2 ounces of the beverage into the glass. Before you add any water, take a sip of the whisky to see if it needs the water added. Next, you can start the process of tasting your whisky for the first time.
Swirl the glass and watch as the whisky trickles down the inside of the glass. Older whiskies will move slower than newer whiskies which will help you figure out how old your beverage is. Next, pass the glass under your nose a few times and try to pick out the aromas within the whisky.
Take a small sip of the beverage and allow it to sit on your tongue. During this step, you want to try to match the tasting notes to the aromas you picked out earlier. This is the ‘proper’ way of tasting a new single malt.
Alternatives to Lagavulin and Ardbeg
Laphroaig Whisky is a brand of scotch whisky established in 1815 (the same year as Ardbeg). The brand has 19 whisky options available for purchase, with an average alcohol content of approximately 57,3% (114,6 proof), and can be bought for approximately $48. Their whisky has tasting notes of smoke, seaweed, and a hint of vanilla and sweetness.
Bruichladdich is a whisky brand that has 3 collections available, including their name’s sake, Port Charlotte, and Octomore. This whisky can be bought for an approximate price of $65 to $225 at an ABV of 57,3% (114,6 proof). There are approximately 10 whiskies sold by the brand with options for unpeated, heavily peated, and super-heavily peated.
Macallan is another brand of single-malt whisky that was established in 1824. Among their offerings is 31 whisky options across 7 collections. Their whisky is available at an average ABV of 40% to 45% (80 to 90 proof) and can be bought for an average price of $900 (although this price does include their rare offerings).
Aberfeldy is a highland brand of whisky that has 3 single malt whiskies available as well as 5 limited-edition scotch whiskies in their offerings. The average price of this whisky is $504, and across the range, there is an average ABV of 40% (80 proofs).
Lagavulin vs Ardbeg Whisky – FAQs
Which came first?
Lagavulin was established in 1816 while Ardbeg was established in 1815. This means that Ardbeg came first by approximately 1 year. Both brands are situated on the isle of Islay in Scotland, with Lagavulin established in Lagavulin while Ardbeg was established in Ardbeg.
Which is stronger?
Lagavulin has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 43% (86 proof) whereas Ardbeg has an average ABV of 46% (92 proof). This means that Ardbeg is stronger on average than Lagavulin although specific whiskies may have a higher or lower alcohol content for both brands.
Which is the most popular?
According to Whisky of the Week which is an online blog, Ardbeg is better than Lagavulin based on a taste test. However, depending on what you are looking for in a single malt, either option may be better for you.