Lagavulin Distillery

Located on a small bay, Lagavulin is a neat white-painted distillery complex which stands close to the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle near Port Ellen, on the south coast of Islay in Argyll and Bute, and was opened in 1816. Distilling of whisky on this site is thought to date back to 1742 when illicit whisky production flourished in the area and, on that basis, the distillery claims to be the oldest in Scotland. In the later 19th C. it was owned by the Islay distiller John Ramsay (1815-92). By the early 20th century, the owner was Sir Peter Mackie, who had a series of battles with his neighbours, Laphroaig Distillery, over an agency agreement and tried to block their water supply. Mackie set up the Malt Mill Distillery in 1907 within the Lagavulin complex to try to copy Laphroaig's product. This operated separately until 1962 when the two distilleries merged. Today, the old Malt Mill Distillery now forms the Lagavulin visitor centre, with an exhibition and shop. Guided tours are also available. The legendary 'Malt Mill' is central to Ken Loach's film The Angel's Share (2012).

Lagavulin Distillery draws its water from the Sholum Lochs (Loch Sholum and Lochan Sholum). Until 1974, it undertook its own malting, but it is now bought from Port Ellen Maltings, but produced to a unique Lagavulin recipe. This malt is milled in the distillery and sugars are extracted in a four-tonne mash tun. Yeast is added to ten 22,000-litre wooden washbacks to allow fermentation to take place.

Lagavulin is noted for its slow double-distillation, which is achieved using copper pot stills; two 11,000-litre wash stills and two unusually pear-shaped 12,000-litre spirit stills. The annual output of 2,465,000 litres of spirit is mostly matured in bourbon casks off the island, with a few ex-sherry casks used to create the signature character of older whiskies. Lagavulin has distinctive flavours of peat and iodine.

Lagavulin is now owned by the London-based Diageo drinks conglomerate, which has a turnover of more than £12.8 billion (2019). The whisky is marketed as one of their Classic Malts.

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