Laphroaig Distillery Port Ellen, Isle of Islay


Distilling is said to have first been brought to Islay by Irish monks over 500 years ago. As the story goes the art of distilling was perfected by the Islanders once they got the basics from the Irish. After centuries of avoiding the whisky excise men, the law relaxed and many whisky makers set up legitimate distilleries, among them a pair of farmers, Donald and Alexander Johnston, who in 1815 founded Laphroig distillery on the island’s south coast. Laphroaig, so called after its location, ‘broad hollow by the bay.’ It would remain in family hands for the next 139 years. Today the brand is owned by Japanese company Beam Suntory.

The Whisky

Islay only has a handful of distilleries but among them are some of the best known brands in the world and mostly they are known for their powerful flavour and aroma profile. Laphroaig may not be for everyone but once you get into it you’ll never go back. This is not a quaint wee distillery, it produces over 3 million litres on whisky every year and is one of the most recognisable Scotch brands on the planet.

Favourite Tipple

There is not a bad whisky that comes out of this distillery, although if you are not into your smoky whiskies you may disagree. The Quarter Cask expression they do has for a long time been one of my go to’s, its a spritely young Laphroaig whose ageing has been speeded up by ageing in small quarter casks. If you are looking for something a little bit special then go for the 18 year old, it will set you back around £160 but it’s well worth every penny.

Why Visit?

You don’t necessarily have to have an interested in whisky to visit Islay but it definitely helps. As a whisky geek myself i find the place totally magical and would find it incredibly hard to choose my favourite distillery here. They all have fascinating history’s and each have their own unique flavour that can only come from being produced on the island. There is a wide range of tours here whatever your interest but make sure and visit as many of the others while you are across.

Geek Alert

Islay is famous for its smoky whiskies which comes from the peat used to dry the barley during malting in the kiln. The peat in islay however is unique being richer in phenols, guaiacol, vanillic compounds and nitrogens but poorer in carbohydrates than the peat from the mainland. What this means to the whisky is that the peat takes on the flavours of the island, such as seaweed and salt spray from the sea, which to many might not sound appealing but helps to create the character of each of the Islands whiskies.

Interesting Fact

This distillery is dedicated to using as much as it can from the islands natural resources. The peat used to give the whisky its district aroma is taken from a moor on Islay itself. Unlike many of Scotland’s distilleries they actually still utilizes it’s own maltings floor for a part of the production. This is where the germinate the barley on site rather than a commercial maltings. 20% of the floor malting happens here and about 80% of it’s malt from the Port Ellen maltings which is also located on the Isaly. Follow me on twitter @andydrink or on Facebook