In 1816 a local businessman built two distilleries on the site where Lagavulin distillery stands. By 1837 there was only one distillery in operation and it has been known by its current name ever since. Funnily enough, Lagavulin wasn't the first distillery in the area, since at least 1742, numerous distilleries operated there illegaly. Rogue distillers got away with it because law enforcement did little to deter them.
The founder of Lagavulin passed away in 1836 and the distillery was acquired by spirits merchant from Glasgow: Alexander Graham. The new owner ran the distillery until 1862 when he sold it to J. L. Mackie. By 1878, Peter J. Mackie, nephew of J. L. Mackie was running the distillery. Peter Mackie was well known for his hard working attitude. He built the Craigellachie distillery and created the legendary White Horse blend.
Peter Mackie also secured a distribution agreement for the spirit of neighbouring Laphroaig distillery. This agreement was very profitable for him. In 1908, Laphroaig realised that an agent was not needed and brought the agreement to an end. Enraged, Peter Mackie decided to starve Laphroaig of water and built a dam to block their access to water. The case ended up in court and Peter Mackie was ordered to destroy his dam.
After several attempts to take over Laphroaig failed, Peter Mackie decided to re-create Laphroaig's whisky character. A new distillery was built next to Lagavulin and it was called Malt Mill. This new distillery was an exact replica of its neighbour (the pot stills were identical) but the whisky it produced was different to the one produced by Laphroaig. Nevertheless, Malt Mill produced whisky until the early 1960's when it was demolished. Those who visit Lagavulin and spend a few minutes at the visitor's centre are actually standing on the site were Malt Mill once stood.
Lagavulin operated normally and with no major changes until the 1970's. In 1974 its floor maltings were decommissioned and barley from nearby Port Ellen maltings was used. For some reason this distillery operated a 'two working days a week' policy for a few years. This resulted in a shortage of aged stocks many years later. In the 1980's Lagavulin 16 year old was included in Diageo's 'The Classic Malts' collection. It has been considered a cult malt ever since.
The character of Lagavulin whisky is loved around the globe for its robust palate. Latakia tobacco, leather, Lapsang Souchong tea, earht and plenty of spicy notes delight the palates of millions. This style is achieved by employing a medium-long fermentation period (50-55 hours), a very slow second distillation and refill casks.
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