Laphroaig entrance uploaded by Ben, 13. Oct 2014
Laphroaig pot stills uploaded by Ben, 15. Feb 2016


Laphroaig distillery was officially founded in 1815, although rumor say that the brothers Alexander and Donald Johnston actually built the site in 1810, when they started farming in the area. However, distillery dates in the nineteenth century, especially the early part of the century, should be taken with a pinch or two of salt.

Details about the Distillery

The Whisky

The Islay distillery of Laphroaig has a decent sized but very extensive range of official bottlings, which include a variety of ages and different flavors. The official range consists of a 10 year old, a select bottling, a cask strength, a quarter cask, a 15 year old, an 18 year old, a 25 year old bottling, a Triple Wood, a PX cask- which means that the bottle is aged in a Pedro Ximenez cask, a QZ cask, which means that the bottling is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and charred American white oak casks (this bottling is actually currently only available in Travel Retail). The official range also includes an An Cuan bottling (which translates as Big Ocean), which is the only bottling at the distillery that is filled entirely in first-fill only ex-American White Oak casks, and a Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014 bottling, which is a Laphroaig that has been double matured in ex-bourbon casks, and then moved to Amontillado hogsheads for a year. Laphroaig has a reputation for having incredibly distinct and individual bottlings, which this current official range absolutely represents. 

In addition to the wonderful official range, there have been a variety of independent bottlings from the site. Just to tell a few: Douglas Laing performed an 8 year old, Duncan Taylor a 16 year old, and Signatory Vintage a vast amout of bottlings in cask strength, from finishing casks and especially unfiltered. 

Laphroaig is consistently the highest-selling whisky on Islay, which is particularly impressive when you take into account the fact that the whisky has such a distinctive and strong flavor. 

Some bottles of the Laphroaig range.

The Production

Laphroaig proudly presents itself as the most strongly flavored of all Scottish whiskies. The production process of the distillery is distinctly structured to achieve this. The site has a production capacity of 2.7 million liters. The water used in the production of Laphroaig is drawn from the Kilbride dam, into which the Kilbride stream flows. 

The view on the Laphroaig distillery from the street.
The yard inside the Laphroaig distillery

The Pot Stills

Most distilleries have an equal number of wash and spirit stills, but Laphroaig has three wash stills and four spirit stills. The three wash stills have a capacity of 10'900 liters, while three of the spirit stills have a capacity of 3'640 liters, and one has a capacity of 7'280 liters. The wash stills at Laphroaig have the common shape of an onion, but then surge upward into very tall conical necks. The extra height on the pot stills helps to increase the amount of reflux in the stills. The spirit stills also have an unusual shape, with flat bases and a very narrow constricting 'strangling' in the intermediate section of the still. This results in a more intense interaction between the spirit and the copper of the still. The stocky shape of the bases of the pot stills, and the tall necks of the wash stills helps contribute to the unique smooth character of the taste of Laphroaig. 

The pot stills inside the distillery.
The spirit and wash stills of the Laphroaig distillery.

The Maltings

The peat used to dry the malt in the production of Laphroaig is taken from a moor on Islay itself. The distillery actually still utilizes it's own maltings floor for a part of the production. A rare feat for a distillery of it's size in the modern age. That being said, Laphroaig does source about 80% of it's malt from the Port Ellen maltings, which is located not far away on the south of Islay. The malts used in the production of Laphroaig are very heavily peated - the single malt is actually nic-named 'peat monster' due to the potent nature of its taste. 

The malting floor inside the distillery.
The malting floors with spread out steeped barley.

The Warehouses

Over 90% of the barrels that are used at Laphroaig are American white oak first fill Bourbon barrels. Ian Hunter, a previous distillery manager, pioneered the use of these barrels back in the 1930s. Hunter found that American White Oak barrels gave exactly the right kind of the flavor that would compliment the Laphroaig single malt. The distillery also uses tiny quarter casks that are used in the Quarter cask expression. The Quarter cask tradition is one that has been performed since the earliest days of the distillery. Spanish Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks are also used for some of the more uncommon expressions. Laphroaig has a complex of both dunnage and racked warehouses, which lies beside the sea at the distillery's complex. The casks are aged up to a maximum of 30 years at the site, and at the point that they are deemed ready, they are transported to the mainline to be bottled. 

View inside the warehouse of the Laphroaig Distillery.

The History

Laphroaig distillery was officially founded in 1815, although rumor say that the brothers Alexander and Donald Johnston actually built the site in 1810, when they started farming in the area. However, distillery dates in the nineteenth century, especially the early part of the century, should be taken with a pinch or two of salt. The distillery wasn't officially registered until 1826, although we know for sure that the distillery was active for at least 9 years before this. Donald and Alexander operated the distillery together successfully until 1836, at which point Donald bought out Alexander and took complete control of the operation. In 1847, Donald Johnson is tragically killed in an accident at the distillery. Walter Graham, the manager of the neighboring Lagavulin distillery, took over control of the operations. Ten years later, in 1847, Donald's son, Dugald took over control of the distillery, returning Laphroaig to the Johnston family. When Dugald died in 1877, he was without an heir, so control of the distillery passed to his sister Isabella, who was married to their cousin, Alexander. 

After both Isabella and Alexander passed away, the distillery continued in the Johnston family, passing to both of Alexanders' sisters, Catherine and Isabella. In 1908, Ian Hunter, arrived on Islay to assist his aunt and mother with the running of the distillery. Hunter was to have an enormous input into the distillery's future. In 1923, Hunter increased the number of stills from two to four at the site, and in 1928, when Isabella and Catherine both passed away, Hunter became the sole owner of the company. In 1950, Ian Hunter formed D Johnston & Company, who became the owners of Laphroaig. Four years later, in 1954, Hunter passed away, and his long-time PA and Secretary, Bessie Williamson, took control of the site. In 1967, Seager Evans bought the site, which marked the fist time that a real 'outsider' took control of the distillery. In 1975, Whitbread & Co bought Seager Evans, gaining itself control of Laphroaig. In 1989, the distillery changed hands again, when the spirit division of Whitbread was sold to Allied Distillers.

In 1994, Prince Charles gave the Royal Warrant to Laphroaig, an extremely significant moment for any distillery.

In 2005, Fortune Brands, owners of Jim Beam Brands bought the site, which went public later on. Jim Beam Brands was taken over by Suntory Holdings in 2014 which is managing the distillery today.

Visitor's Centre

Laphroaig distillery has an impressive visitor's centre, which includes the opportunity to tour the facilities, as well as a gift shop, and café.

The visitor center of the Laphroaig Distillery.