They are two Islay classics and imo, they are different enough to warrant having both open at once. Lag16 isn't really a "beginner" Islay in the sense that it might be mild, but it is often the first Islay SMS drinkers experience due to how accessible it is (I find it at the most abysmal bars).
Lagavulin doesn't go easy on the peat and smoke (I find the 16yr to be one of the "ashiest" whiskies out there), but Ardbeg in general may be seen as more "challenging" due to the stronger maritime influence (sea water, seaweed, oysters, iodine, etc). 50/50 water is a little extreme... I'd try watering down your next dram slowly/gradually until the heat is closer to Lag16's 43% ABV.
Anyway, both are quality whiskies, but the Oogy is a better value considering they're basically at the same price point. Just my 2 cents.
Thanks. I think it was that issue of Wine Spectator from a year or two ago that was dedicated to Scotch (scotch was the cover story) that suggested L16 was "less harsh" in the smokey, peaty Islay category, so that's where I got that idea.
Yes, I'm glad to have them both open at once.
Speaking of tasting/nosing in general, I am confused about the deep breaths of whiskey I see tasters doing - if I put my nose into a glass (even at bottle strength of ~40%) and take a deep inhale, my nose gets burned up and very quickly I lose the aromas - in fact, I only get a few deep inhales of L16 before I can't smell the smoke anymore. Are the tasters I see taking much, much shallower inhales when their nose is buried in the glass, or do I have an unusually sensitive nose ?