Lagavulin distillery is a favourite among whisky aficionados and lovers of peaty, smokey whiskies. The spirit is rich and decadent with the dark tea, Latakia tobacco and sea breeze notes that its fans crave.
It started producing whisky in 1816, just a year after its neighbours Ardbeg and Laphroaig and it very close proximity
to them. Some ten years after Lagavulin started production, its founder John Johnston, acquired another distillery: Ardmore (on Islay, not the current Ardmore distillery located in Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire). That second venture lasted until 1835 and all production was moved permanently to Lagavulin distillery.
In 1852 and 1867 the distillery changed hands and the latter acquisition proved to be a game changer for Lagavulin distillery. The owner James Logan Mackie hired his nephew Peter Mackie. When J. L. Mackie passed away in 1889, Peter took over the distillery and launched the mythical White Horse Blend almost immediately after assuming control.
In 1890 distillery architect Charles Doig built a distillery for Peter Mackie. It was built at Craigellachie (Speyside) and it was named after the village itself. It is worth noting that both Lagavulin and Craigellachie distilleries produce rich and robust whiskies. This is no coincidence, as Peter Mackie insisted on that spirit profile for his blends.
Laphroaig and Malt Mill
Since at least 1847, the owners of Lagavulin acted as commercial agents for Laphroaig distillery. In 1907 the owners of the latter distillery decided to do away with their agents and commercialise their whisky by themselves. Peter Mackie tried to stop Laphroaig from going it alone and attempted to stop them by legal means. When the courts decided on Laphroaig's favour, Mackie decided to use more disrupting methods. An improvised dam was built and it deprived Laphroaig of water. When the courts sided again with Laphroaig, Mackie decided to build a replica distillery. One could say that that new distillery (Malt Mill was its name) was built out of spite. It failed to replicate the flavour and character of Laphroaig but kept producing whisky until 1960. In 1962 the site of Malt Mill distillery was incorporated into the site of Lagavulin. The visitor centre of Lagavulin distillery was built on the site of the former Malt Mill distillery. The comedy film by Ken Loach: The Angel Share (2012) focuses on a cask of Malt Mill whisky.
Lagavulin whisky style
The water is drawn from the Lochan Sholum
burn that runs from 200mts above sea level down towards the distillery. As the water descends towards the distillery, it runs through peat bogs. Even the water helps shape the final flavour and character of Lagavlulin single malt whisky.
At the distillery, the wort is fermented for some 50-55 hours. This imparts a cereal note to the final product. The wash stills (where the first distillation is carried out) are filled to 95% of their capacity and the first distillation is carried out over a period of 5 hours. The second distillation is one of the slowest in the industry, it takes 9 hours and it massively increases reflux. The final 'cut' is among the largest in the industry too, this is so that the maximum amount of phenols can be retained.
Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The revered Lagavulin 16
year old is the best known whisky in the range. In fact, it is one of the most recognisable names when it comes to single malts. The Lagavulin 8 year old
is a more recent addition (was added in 2016 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery's foundation) and it gets mixed reviews, some people love it while others not so much. It's a must try we think.
More recently, 12 year old expressions
have been released by Diageo. These releases are bottled at cask strength and have conquered the palates of the most hardcore fans and of those who just discovered this delightful whisky.