Finlaggan Old Reserve

Finlaggan is a conundrum. Bottles from the Finlaggan brand (a product of the “Vintage Malt Whisky Company Ltd.”) contain a single malt from an Islay distillery. The company keeps a very tight lid on the identity of its source, breaking silence only to insist that Finlaggan does now, always has, and always will contain whisky from the same distillery. If we are to believe the company, we must trust our nose and not our ears in order to divine the secrets of this pale liquid. A favorite topic of whisky forums, the identity of Finlaggan’s source is thought to be Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, or Caol Ila. It’s very likely that the OR (Old Reserve) contains younger whisky – perhaps in the 6 year range – although a bottling of 10 year-old is available in some markets.

The fascination with this whisky comes primarily from its absurdly low price. A bottle at my local Trader Joe’s (the primary reseller of Finlaggan in the U.S.) costs $18. This makes it, by a wide margin, the cheapest single-malt available to me. The astounding part is that it’s actually QUITE GOOD. A good, peat-forward, single malt for $18 a bottle? Mystery aside, that makes Finlaggan a rarity in a world where Ardbeg can sell out of $100 bottles of 10 year-old malts named after reptiles.

Finlaggan itself is named after the ruins of Finlaggan Castle, a historic site on Loch Finlaggan on Islay, which was the residence of The Lords of the Isles.

Finlaggan OR (Old Reserve)

Color: Very pale in color.

Nose: Concentrated smoke. Grill-blackened mushrooms. Charcoal. The peatiness is intense, in a very campfire-smoke way. Underneath the smoke lies a layer of sugary malt sweetness – not complex, but undeniably malty. The Islay character is clear, but there is little maritime influence. A few drops of water intensify the smoke, but also release a little lemon peel and green apple.

Palate: Medium body. Alcohol burn upfront betrays its youth. Evolves into rice vinegar, sour candies, silty water, fresh green moss, and a pervading bitter smokiness. A few drops of water goes a long way to tame the alcohol. The water also brings out a little bit of vague fruit.

Finish: Long and with an interesting flavor like sweet-and-sour or Margarita mix. Fades into simple, slightly bitter, smoke and wet ashes.

Clearly a young, heavily peated malt from Islay. The indistinct maritime flavors suggest that it might not have matured in seaside warehouses, or perhaps used inland peat? The remaining flavors are muddy and lean towards the bitter. Despite these negative characteristics, this is a powerful, peaty dram of single malt for under $20. For that price, and this range of interesting flavors, it’s hard not to recommend. If you don’t like peat, avoid this bottle. If you’ve developed a refined taste for well-aged peated malts, avoid this bottle. However, if you’re curious, definitely locate a Trader Joe’s with an alcohol license near you and pick some up.

My theory? I think it’s young Ardbeg. The lemony “Margarita Mix” flavors and lack of a dominant seaweediness or saltiness remind me of Corryvreckan, although this is obviously a far cry from that superb dram. I just don’t get those warm, unctuous, savory Lagavulin notes. Many informed whisky drinkers are sure that it’s six year-old Lagavulin. Either way, this is very good stuff for a very good price, and I think the mystery adds something to the experience.

Finlaggan Old Reserve
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $17-$20
Acquired: (Bottle): Trader Joe's in Folsom, CA $17

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  • In the Chicago area, you can find this one at Binny’s Beverage Depot. Pretty coarse stuff, frankly, but worth a try if you like the peaty ones.

  • For $18.99, its not a bad sip. I think your review gets it right on the nose.

    The alcohol burn is 1st and prominent followed by bitterness. To me, the finish is not long lasting. I can taste the peet, but its being cloaked by water, so the Peet is not as powerful as a bottle of Lagavulin, but it is there.

    For under $20, not a bad buy, but not something you’ll savor. Just something to drink.

  • it has a smoky flavor, and what seems to me to be a salty nose. For the price you can’t beat it. I would definitely buy another bottle.

  • I purchased a bottle at Trader Joes in San Diego. I’ve been drinking Speyside which I realize is a much lighter breed of cat but I was floored by the NASTY aroma after opening the bottle.It wasnt just a strong smokey nose it dam near assaulted me.It smell like it was aged in creosote lined hollowed out telephone pole and filtered through campfire ash that included green wood and trash. This whiskey burns like a cheap tequila.A second whiff reveals burnt electrical insulation and band aids……YIKES

    • Hi Chris, sorry that you didn’t enjoy Finlaggan. (Lucky it’s so cheap, right?) I’d be curious if you’ve tried other heavily peated scotches like Laphroaig, Lavagulin, or Ardbeg. Was your reaction to the strong peat aromas (an acquired taste, of course, but relished by those who like peated whisky), or specifically to the admittedly lower-quality Finlaggan?

      • I had basically the same experience as chris here. I might rather have a dram of liquified rear wheel dragster tire after a full blown burnout. Finlaggan was so peaty that I just couldn’t drink it. Was pretty much disgusted by every aspect of it. Not sure if the immediate sick feeling in my stomach was physical or emotional based on the noption that I had just spent $20 on an undrinkable bottle of smoke. I actually returned it to Trader Joes and exchanged it for a reliably delicious bottle of Jameson and enjoyed every sip all the more.

        • Jimbo, thanks for sharing your experience – I agree that Finlaggan ought to come with a warning label – “This is young heavily peated whisky, and tastes like it” – just be glad you didn’t drop $60 on a bottle of Ardbeg to discover that you don’t like heavily peated whiskies. 🙂

          • I personally loved it for my first islay, it was so different from what i am used to the smoke, salt, offensive flavours and all. Next is lagaulvin 16 year at costco.

          • I’m with you, what were they expecting anyway? I thought this was as good as Smokey Joe …that cost me $65 a bottle!

        • Seems like peat is just a love it or hate it thing. I’m new to Whisky and Scotch, been sipping it on the rocks for just shy of a year without paying much attention to what I was buying save for the price, and I am transferring over from my usual spiced rum. It was a fluke that I grabbed my Finlaggan a couple weeks ago at TJs, and I was immediately stunned and infatuated. I love the smoke and peat, even my kids like the way it smells. I’ve been researching Scotch every other night, bought a $60 Glenfiddich 12 for comparison, and the Finlaggan beats it hands down. Maybe there’s a parallel here. I love spiced rum, smokey Scotch, and a good stout beer (can’t stand ipa). Anybody else like that in here? Or the opposite?
          I’ll never buy Jameson again. Only single malt Scotch from here on out.

          • Jay, that’s a good observation–another way of saying we share the same opinion :-P. I prefer a peaty Islay scotch over a highland, speyside, etc. Though I prefer a German dunkles or double bock more that a stout, I’d definitely pick a stout over an IPA. Not a rum drinker, but a Caribbean guy I work with, knowing my propensity for peaty scotch, suggests I try a funky Jamaican rum over a cleaner Barbadian one specifically for the heavy funkiness of the Jamaican.

            As for this thread, people, stop comparing Finlaggan to Lagavullin or any other bottle three times the price. Finlaggan is a steal for the price. It’s not $60 a bottle for a reason, but for a hair over $20, this is a keeper, and a mainstay in my house.

  • I found this article when I was deciding whether to buy a bottle of Finlaggan at Trader Joe’s last night. I bought two: one for my friend’s birthday, and one for myself.

    It is good! I think the price makes it taste better, because it makes me feel as though I’m in on some amazing secret.

  • Just found your website today while looking up Pappy Van Winkle’s 15yo ((Beltramo’s is an awesome place, by the way. Don’t make it out there nearly as much as I’d like) and I started to look around. You’ve got a great site.

    Now, on to the post.

    I’m no scotch expert, but I agree with how great Finlaggan is for the price. I keep a bottle on hand at all times now.

    I also would guess it is a young Ardbeg. It just seems smoke heavier (in comparison to peat) than Lagavulin, and less subtle. Last Ardbeg I had was anything but subtle.

  • I have a feeling that it’s a young Laphroaig just because the initial nose of the Finlaggan is very similar to recent batches of Laphroaig.

    Having said that, for $20, this is an awesome scotch. Lots of peat, hints of iodine, and that maritime smoke… Reminds me of the times when I was young and spent a lot of time in coastal areas. Good stuff indeed.

  • Oh Finlaggan how I miss your strong taste and cheap price. Hopefully we meet again at trader joe’s soon

  • I am sad for those who thought this stuff was too strong. To me, it is too weaaaaaak.

    My 1st Islay Scotch was only last Christmas. Lagavulin 16 year. I hated it at first: It was like drinking burning rubber or liquid asphalt. I didn’t understand it; however, I also don’t like wasting alcohol, so I kept going at it every day for a week. 1 dram at a time trying to understand it, and it happened after half the bottle was gone.

    I started to understand. I started to love it. It was velvety smooth and had so much more complex flavors than the Speyside I was used to. It made Glenlivet bland.

    It took me only about 1 month to finish that bottle of Lagavulin, and I tried to go cheap. I got a Laphroaig 10 and Finlaggan OR. The Laphroaig 10 was very industrial diesel tasting. The Finlaggan tasted watered down. I mixed the 2 and the resulting mix was a train collision that was the worst of both combined.

    So I just picked up a bottle of Lagavulin and a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail. I also picked up a bottle of Finlaggan. I think the Finlaggan might be fine for every day Islay drinking, but its just missing something. I just think there is too much water.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Nathan. I personally think Finlaggan’s problem (and the cause of its low price) is the quantity of extremely young (possibly 3 y/o) Islay malt in it. That causes it to have harsher-than-usual industrial/rubber flavors which would mature out in an older malt. Still, I agree with your assessment that it’s a good cheap alternative for everyday, especially with the recent increases across the board in whisky prices.

      • Somehow, I’ve been lucky.

        Price jumps have been minor. Glenlivet 18 year was $49. Now $55 is the lowest I can find it. Ardbeg Uigeadail seems to go for $70-80 online. I can get it for $58.99.

        All in all, in my station in life, I can afford to pay a little more for quality. After my review of Finlaggan, I decided to pop open and drink the Ardbeg….the taste difference is huge. I guess I now understand how pronounced the industrial/rubber taste is in the Finlaggan. I had simply attributed it to the alcohol, but the Ardbeg Uigeadal I’m drinking has at least 14% more alcohol, but I’ll be damned it I could even tell. Smooth, sweet, complex… makes me not want to touch the bottle of Finlaggan. That’s what I get for drinking one of the best rated scotches with the cheap Trader Joe’s stuff haha…

  • It would be interesting to see the results of a blind tasting that includes Finlaggan — I suspect it would fare pretty well. I buy several bottles whenever I’m in a Trader Joe’s market. I enjoy all styles of malts but prefer the peaty Lagavulins and Laphroaigs. I particularly cherish my bottle of cask strength Lagavulin 12. But Finlaggan is a remarkable malt for the price. I’m planning a trip to Scotland next spring, including three days on Islay, where I intend to sniff out the true story.

  • I dumped my first bottle of Finlaggan down the sink. I had been drinking Lismore, and I would describe the flavor as tasting like rubber cement.
    Years passed, and I received a bottle of Lagavulin for Xmas. Oh no! There’s that glue smell again! But wait. 1/3 of the way through the Lagavulin, I started to like it. For me, Peaty scotch took some getting used to, but now, I prefer it to sweeter, less challenging scotches. I can’t drink say, Glenmorangie without wincing at the sweetness. I’m converted. Give me Peat!

    • Glenmorangie is my favorite scotch hands down, but a peaty islay is nice every now and then my plan once i graduate from medical is to buy a bottle of the 18 year Glenmorangie and really sit down and enjoy it.

  • After getting a recommendation from another Laphroaig drinker at TJ’s, I really wanted to like Finlaggan.

    This thing is a beast. Vile. Burnt rubber tires mixed with lighter fluid that made the hairs on the back of my head stand up (literally).

    This watery and harsh liquid is nothing–nothing–like the beautiful complexity of Laphroaig, which reminds me of smoking a nice Virginia/Latakia blend. Finlaggan instead just tastes like cancer (to me, anyway).

    Yes, sure it’s peaty, but peat alone does not a good drink make. Save your money for something better.

    I returned my bottle in horror, and TJ’s was gracious about it.

    • @Brobdingnag Sorry to hear about your experience with Finlaggan – I thought it was inferior to Laphroaig 10, but drinkable. You should check out Black Bottle, it’s around $20 and is much tastier than Finlaggan, despite actually being a blend. A review of Black Bottle will be up on my site 3/4/2013. Cheers!

  • Hey, thanks for the nice quick reply! I don’t regret the experience, the displeasure was worth the education (what I like, what I don’t like). A know-your-limits kind of thing. Looking forward to your Black Bottle review!

  • I mostly agree with your review here. Finlaggan was my first Islay malt and it completely blew me away. I’ve moved on vastly superior (laphroaig) Islay malts but still think Finlaggan has value. With more Islay experience, I note Finlaggan lacks the salty sea air of seaside warehousing, the sweetness of bourbon casking, and pretty much any other flavors are drowned out by vicious burnt rubber peat.But that said, you can’t find a whisky under 30 dollars that packs near the punch of this one. Unfortunately, TJ’s stocks Laphroaig 10 for 39$, making it much worthwhile to double up the purchase and get Laphroaig over Finlaggan.

  • Thank heavens for your website, Scotch Noob.

    I thought perhaps someone had blended in rubbing alcohol with my Finlaggan. Now that I know it’s safe to drink, I’ll try to discover the complexity of peaty whiskeys.

    Again, thanks.

  • Costco carries Lagaluvin 16 year for 60-69 dollars, now that i know that i like Finlaggin i will move onto that once i get the cash.

  • Oh dear baby Jesus help me. I poured a shot and it… omg… the finish will not die! I’ve tried soda, mustard, milk… it’s like a scot used my tongue for toilet paper.

    If you don’t like your mouth being an outhouse, avoid this bog of eternal stench. Will ketchup help? It works on skunked dogs.

  • this is an incredible value. it’s not as good as laphroig/lagavulin but for the price it’s fantastic. i’d expect to pay $30.00 for something this rich.

  • Finlaggan, boy what a deal each time i drink it is an adventure. Sadly i dont enjoy bourbon anymore i used to drink bourbon for the kick and scotch for the smoothness but after finlaggan nothing i have except WT101 and its big brother kentucky spirit even get near the feel.

    • Its more of i do like bourbon, but islay has so much more oomph to it. Still i have my favorite’s and each one for a different day.

  • Has anyone found this scotch in the New Castle County, Delaware area? Also, I’m curious where people are finding these sub-$20 prices. I’ve seen TJs in CA mentioned, and I found it for $32 at a Chicago Binny’s Beverage Depot as mentioned by one commenter. I suppose the price depends on local liquor taxes.

    • Hi Walter,
      The prices I list on the site are ones I’ve seen in the Bay Area, in California. This one was at Trader Joe’s. I would definitely not pay $32 for Finlaggan, I’d much rather move up $10 and get Laphroaig 10 or a Bowmore.

  • True, if you’re a regular islay drinker, you’ll realize there’s something a bit off about the after taste… that sort of sickly sweet harshness that young tipples of all types have.

    But that considered, and the price…. it’s very drinkable.

    Above all else, consider it for the amazing opportunities it offers for mixed drinks. Don’t have the heart to dilute your precious laphroaig with bitters and god knows what else? Try the finlaggans for exactly that purpose. Those off flavors go right away, as is usually the case with mixer grade booze.

    My cocktail of choice these days: Finlaggans, a dollop of honey, a splash of absinthe, and 2 dashes of peychauds, served with a big cube and a lemon twist.
    An Islay Sazerac.

  • I’m done visiting California for a while. So I have limited access to replenishing my supply of Finlaggan.
    And ..I NEED SOME MORE !! I heard TJ’s doesn’t carry it anymore(?) I hope that’s incorrect; I know they don’t in Chicago. But I’ll check Vinny’s for it, as someone ref’d.

    As far as the distinction and quality of Finlaggan, I find it amazing with its strong aromatic Peat. But here’s my trick.. I use it AS A MIXER, a flavoring ..
    I “peat” up my Highland single malts, such as Glen Livet or Glen Fiddich, or even cheaper blended scotches, to make them a wonderfully peaty (Islay-style)drink .. BUT, don’t use too much! Just a splash of Finlaggan to a couple ounce sniffter of the other.
    Oh, and has anyone tried the 10 year old or Cask Strength?? I would love to get a hold of those !!

    • Mr. Stuart – I believe my local TJs in California still carries the Old Reserve, but I haven’t checked there in awhile. I’ve never seen any other expressions for sale anywhere. I think using Finlaggan to create your own peaty blend or blended malt is a great idea. I sometimes dabble with blending malts (usually when I have several bottles hanging around with dregs in them), and I imagine that a little malt-forward or sherried whisky would round off Finlaggan’s rough edges quite nicely. Cheers! -Nathan

  • Give me peat, but don’t give me unfinished, unripe water-diluted turpentine!
    No matter how cheap this bottle is ($20 at just opened TJ in CO), it’s not worth inflicting on yourself. Just save the money and get something you are actually going to enjoy and savor. Too much to ask from a $20 bottle? Yes. You get what you pay for.

  • I just opened this bottle of Finlaggan single malt OR , poured it over some rocks, took a sip and wanted to spit it out. I tried a few more sips thinking I best give it a chance. Tastes like it was aged in an ashtray with a case of band aids thrown it. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’ll either pour the bottle down the drain or if I have time, return it to Trader Joes .

  • This is one of the best single malt scotches I have ever tasted. Yes its a little young, but it is very smoky and very sweet, and the finish is long and drawn out. Excellent bottle for the price, great for the campfire too. T

  • I actually think the Scotch is very good. I drink Laphroig as a preference but this stuff is right there. I don’t do a side by side comparison for a reason. I like the price. laphroig is $50 a bottle so it only gets opened now and again. Yes, I just bought 4 bottles at Traders when I was in Calif.

  • Just tried Finlaggan. Ok for 18 bucks. Im a laphroaig fan and there is a difference but if you want an affordable SMS then its ok. You get what you pay for

  • I’ve been intrigued by the extremely mixed reviews. Some say it’s undrinkable panther piss; others say it’s quite respectable; others say it’s excellent. Just tried it tonight for the first time. I love the Islay SMSs, and Laphroaig is my preferred barley juice … Finlaggan is quite good. It qualifies for sipping, but I totally agree with those who say to use it as a mixer, given its shockingly low price. Experiment with Scotchtails. I always cringe a little when mixing Laphroaig, but Finlaggan will let me mix with abandon.

    • Thanks for the comment, Scott. I agree completely. Anyone who says it’s disgusting has to reconsider what they’re comparing it against. Other $20 peated single malts? Hello? Another good use for Finlaggan is to add a peaty spike to a dram of disappointing or bland single malt. I’ve used it successfully to make interesting use of the last 1/4 of a mediocre bottle of something cheap aged in ex-bourbon. Again, not a use I would subject Laphroaig to, but at $20 there’s no shame in doing it to the Finlaggan. Cheers!

  • I think this wold lend itself well to my version of whisky and coke, only I would use vanilla cream soda and this scotch. It is a great variation.

  • I love Islay Single Malt, like Bunnahabhain and Laphroaig. Finding Finlaggen on the shelf at TJ’s intrigued me. So I bought one, and while I found Finlaggen to be rather soft on the palate, I didn’t find it distasteful at all. I rather enjoyed its long, lingering finish. Its soft watery mouth-feel is made up for in its up front peat flavor and mild briney nature, which I really like. So, those that found it extremely distasteful, I would bet you do not like Islay scotch in general, or have never tried one. For 18 a bottle, I will be purchasing this one again.

  • I thought Id buy this along with the 4 roses… they didn’t have it. After tasting 4 roses and reading this description, I wondered if this is what inspired Jethro Tull’s ‘Locomotive Breath’? I need to get a barkeep to pour me a sample of 4 whiskys to see if I like any of them.

  • Just got back from Trader Joe’s with a bottle of the Old Reserve for Thanksgiving. While it’s definitely young, I’ve always found it eminently drinkable…and am of the opinion that it’s a young punk version of Lagavulin. Those of us lucky enough to have found their first bottle of Lagavulin at Trader Joe’s will probably remember that it came not in its current clear bottle, but in an opaque tan pottery jug, replete with a finger handle at the join of bottle and neck and a cork with a green pottery top…and it was a similar steal at $15, IIRC. (TJ’s also sold “airline” minis of Lagavulin a little later, for even cheaper. Do NOT ask me how many cases of that my brother and I went through.) 🙂

    But the point that I wanted to make is that the typography on that jug for the words “Islay Malt” (with the I and M both italicized) are nigh-on identical to the typography you’ll find on Finlaggan, with the same italicization.

    Obviously, typography isn’t a copyrighted property, but I’ve had enough Lagavulin throughout the years that I’m pretty sure that they’re the source…the taste is very similar, just, well, a young punk version of Ol’ Papa Lagavulin.

  • Sorry for last replay.
    I bought a bottle of finlaggan and think its a bood price for a smoked whisky.
    The tast of Islay is fir me a nice one. I think the tast is more like laphroaig.
    It is short lasting taste with no difficult tast-sensation.
    This product is easy to drink.

  • Well just had to check in on this thread again, while comparing Finlaggan OR and Lagavulin 16 year side by side I must say the “Fin” has less burn and similar peat to the the 16 yr. The Fin is lighter in color and about 1/3 the cost from Trader’s compared to 16 yr. from Costco. I’d say if you want to look fancy get the 16 yr, and if you like the smoke drink the Fin and save your self a mint. Can’t wait to get some smoke monster and do this comparison again.

  • Thanks for this interesting thread – I am a complete noob and unsophisticated Scotch drinker, happened upon this at Trader Joe’s, gave it a try, and found that I quite liked it. Besides the names already mentioned as possible sources for this, are there any other single malts that would be suggested as the next step for someone who likes the taste of Finlaggan and wants to learn more about Scotch Whisky? Thanks in advance for any advice…

    • Hi Dave,
      The clear next step is Laphroaig 10 – it’s not too much more expensive, but markedly better quality-wise. The Laphroaig Quarter-Cask (approximately the same price, depending on your location) is slightly better than the 10-year, but either works. After that, it should be Lagavulin 16 and/or Talisker 10, both of which are significantly more expensive. You could also add Ardbeg 10 to that list. After that, there’s plenty of options (including my favorite peated whisky, Ardbeg Corryvreckan), but those are the big boys. Cheers!

      • Thanks for the advice. I already tried Laphroaig 10 and found it very harsh compared to Finlaggan, but maybe that’s similar to someone new to craft beers having a stand-offish reaction to their first dry stout. It was also during a late summer/early fall heat wave and wonder how that might have affected the taste – I realize that Scotch is supposed to be served at room temperature, but suspect room temperature where I live in Southern California means something different than room temperature in Scotland. Will move on to some of the other suggestions on your list – I suspect Lagavulin 16 and/or Corryvreckan will be next up. Thanks again for a terrific site!

  • Fascinating thread! I’ve been a single-malt drinker since the early 90s, and I have enjoyed products from all regions of Scotland. Some of my favorites are Talisker, Highland Park, Lagavulin, Sringbank, Glenlivet, and Aberlour. I recently bought a bottle of Finlaggan OR from TJ’s, curious about what a $19 bottle of “Islay whiskey” might taste like. My first impression was that this is definitely a young whiskey, recently peated (without enough intervening years to mellow the smoke). Also, alcohol-forward on the palate and a somewhat bitter finish. But, otherwise not bad! Personally, I have always enjoyed the peaty stuff, but I understand it’s not for everyone, and some of the less-than-complimentary comments in this thread left me rolling on the floor! But I have continued to buy and drink this scotch and most likely will continue to because you just can’t beat the price.

  • I spent some wonderful days on Islay recently and drove by a small sign pointing to Finnlaggan which happened to be next to Caol Ila. As we were enroute to Port Ellen we didn’t stop nor actually see a distillery. I tasted at Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin none of which had any knowledge of Finlaggan being made by them. I taste wine and spirits for Trader Joe’s and recently poured Finlaggan paired with smoked Scottish salmon. Amazing combination but certainly not for everybody. There’s no question what a great value it is and you can drop a little water in it which tames it down a bit.

    • Hi Tony, thanks for the note. Finlaggan Castle (which the whisky is named after) is a tourist destination, so there wouldn’t have been a distillery there. Probably the distilleries you visited didn’t know about Finlaggan whisky because it’s blended from barrels obtained on the secondary market, from barrel brokers or other resellers. Cheers!

  • Was drinking mainly speyside, then my father in law shows up and gives me a bottle that had been sitting in his cabinet for at least 15 years (a little more than half full). It was Lagavulin. I took one sip and, “Oh crap! I hope this isn’t too expensive!” It was the apex of my whiskey experience to date. Found out it was close to $100 a bottle ($70 at costco). I got me some laphroaig which was still a little to pricey to b a daily drinker. Started hitting scotch blogs and a lot of them talked about finlaggan. This was my first stop. I went to the local trader joes and grabbed me a bottle. Opened it and gave it a go. The very next day I went and bought three more. Love this stuff as a daily drinker. And I have NO problem at all with it. U cannot beat it for the money. Quite frankly I couldn’t care less what distillery it is from. It’s damn good and a BARGAIN!!! No need to feel better about it trying to say it’s a Lagavulin, ardbeg or whatever. It’s finlaggan and it’s worth every penny. I read the bad reviews and I sicerely hope more people pay attention to those than mine (more for me). Don’t get me wrong Finlaggan isn’t the greatest whiskey. But for those who love islay (like i do now), this is a must have unless you have the means to drink most other islay beauties regularly. If u don’t this is your regular islay fix.

  • I found about this whiskey at Trader Joes too and the local sales guy refereed as “poor man Laphroaig” maybe because he saw the delivery note/invoice from the same group maybe just a coincidence because Trade Joes carries Laphroaig, out of all peaty islay malts out there.

    Also, for the price of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s you get a decent Islay Single Malt. Unbeatable.

    For all the haters on the taste and peat out there: man up, please. It is a young peaty whiskey for god sakes.


  • How’s this for a ripoff?? Our trusty monopoly liquor commission in Quebec just brought in some Finlaggan, and have priced it at a ridiculous $96!! At those prices, I’ll go for a real Ardbeg or Laphroaig.

      • The Societe des Alcools du Quebec (SAQ) has some very strange pricing policies. Some single malts and blends are actually somewhat fairly marked, like Talisker 10 and Glendronach 12, but others are really out there. However, the Flinlaggan price is beyond comprehension.

  • Glad I found this site. just picked up a bottle of Finlaggan OR from Trader Joes to try out because it was sitting right next to one of my favorite Speyside SM called Lismore ( which i don’t see a review on here 🙁 ) so thought i’d give it a try. Went to research before i tasted it and ran across this site, read a few comments and couldn’t wait to open it So I did in my office for lunch :-). Def not something I would drink all the time, too peaty too smokey and a bit of an after-taste for me. and Def reminded me of Lagavulin ( which my neighbor loves) and I dont so he may be getting this bottle. Back to Oban for me. Great site & comments and thanks for the review.

  • Iv’e been enjoying blends as a noob, and dabling with smokies. My first a local Kiwi called Thompsons Manuka smoke 5th edition, now …that is a slice of New Zealand. We use manuka a native wood to smoke our fish and the flavour is to die for, this is saturated in manuka, love it.
    Well decided to crack into my first Islay which is Finlaggan original. Wow, for me it is very reminiscent of my time as a butcher (3rd generation) 1970/80’s. It smells and tastes, and lingers like the smoked ham. May not be for all but I’m enjoying the flavour, and memories of my time as a butcher with this.

  • Great to read these impressions of Finlaggan after just trying some. I think the review at the beginning of the thread is dead-on. Forgive the grandstanding here, but I have personally visited all of the Islay distilleries, and having sampled all of them (personal favorites are Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Bowmore), I have to admit that this tastes to my palate like a young Lagavulin. No, it doesn’t hold a candle to 16 yo Lagavulin, but more than holds it own against the island’s other peaty contenders, especially at that extremely attractive price point. Sorry, but it’s hard to take many of the “reviews” that mention rubber cement, band-aids, old tires, etc. very seriously. Yes, as your very first Islay scotch, you’ll be put off. Those comparisons are fun to make, but right here, right now, let me just address the folks out there that know Islay scotch, and love Islay scotch: buy a bottle of Finlaggan. You won’t be disappointed.

  • I love Finlaggan!
    A buddy just bought me a 16 year old bottle of Lagavulin and we did a side-by-side test.. and guess what? Finlaggan won!!
    No, not even close. The Lagavulin had that heavy, heavenly, oily body we’ve come to expect. However, I’ve found that Finlaggan holds up well when sipped from a flask on a cold, nasty, wet, windy day out among the foothills… the nastier the weather, the smoother and more refined it becomes. Well worth the price…

  • As a Scotsman, I think you whisky “aficionados” talk a lot of sh1t as regards Scotch. None of us Scots “get” that pretentious crap about honey notes, walnuts, etc. nonsense. It’s not true of wine and it’s not true of whisky. You either like it or you don’t or it’s an acquired taste that you haven’t yet developed a sophisticated palate for (like Blue Stilton). Please spare us the pretentious nonsense and just say if it’s good or not. Yes, Finlaggan is a real bargain and as good as Laphroaig or Lagavulin in my book.

    • As an Australian I agree with your sentiment about the honey, seaweed, tarry rope nonsense. I only drink Islay single malt but avoid those that add caramel (E150) colouring so I don’t drink Laphroaig or Lagavulin. Nor Bowmores for the same reason. Sadly Finlaggan also puts it in. That leaves 4 Islay distilleries to choose from, Ardbeg is an excellent choice for me.

    • Finlaggan is, to me, suuuuper peaty. Teachers definitely has a touch of oily peat which gives it a few of the same characteristics, but to me Teachers has too much young grain whisky, which tastes (to me) like paint thinner or nail polish remover smells. They’re definitely both composed of very young whiskies (hence the low prices).

  • To me the muted medicinal flavor and soft peat reminds me Of Bowemore. Then I read Brian Cook, former director at Morrison Bowmore was the founder of vintage malt whisky co. I’d say most of this dram is Bowemore.

  • This has to be Lagavulin! I just bought a bottle of the game if thrones 9 year old and the comparison between the two is close. I think this is 3 to 6 year old Lagavulin.

  • I took out my Laphroaig 10, Talisker 10, Ardbeg 10 and the TJ Finlaggan. The nod, for me for sure and surprisingly, goes to the Ardbeg (brisk and unapologetic) with a close follow of the Talisker. The local Total Wine officianado (who is a Scot) had likened it to Laphroaig which to me had an almost grassy finish and brinier first impression. I really liked doing this taste test..happier by the minute. Slainte.

  • My first experience to the peat was Lag 16 that was shared by a fellow guest at the inn I was staying in, I was bowled over by the iodine and smoke, but it grew on me as he poured me a few more and has stayed with me since then (probably around the time this review came out). So being the cheap bastard that I am, I have only had one other bottle of Lag 16 since (bartered for some photo work).

    Last week I saw this at a TJs as I was shopping for a trip and picked it up on a lark. My first impressions were that of a Lag Lite, it made for a nice drink after a day on the slopes, and it didn’t beg for approval or give me any backtalk. I enjoyed it given the price and unknown provenance and will go buy a bottle tomorrow because for $19, it’s a pretty good peaty scotch that doesn’t kill the wallet or the palette.