Lagavulin distillery logo, Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Lagavulin Distillery

  • Scotland, UK
  • San Francisco World Spirits Competition (2005-2008), Gold Medals in San Francisco World Spirits Competition (Post-2008), Wine Enthusiast Magazine Rating (2004)
Phone Number
  • +441496302749
  • Lagavulin, Isle of Islay PA42 7DZ, United Kingdom

Lagavulin distillery at sunset in Scotland.

History of Lagavulin Distillery

Origins and Establishment

The story of Lagavulin Distillery, located on Islay, Scotland, intertwines with the history of whisky production on the island. Records from as early as 1742 mention up to ten illicit distilleries in the area, highlighting a longstanding tradition of whisky making.

The legal foundation of Lagavulin can be traced back to 1816 when local farmer and distiller John Johnston established the first official distillery at Lagavulin Bay. In the following year, 1817, a second distillery was set up by Archibald Campbell​​​​​​.

The Early Years and Mergers

The two distilleries initially operated independently. By 1825, John Johnston took over both operations, merging them into a single entity. This period marked the beginning of the distillery that we recognize today as Lagavulin. After Johnston’s death in 1836, the distillery was acquired by Alexander Graham, a whisky merchant from Glasgow​​​​.

The Influence of Peter Mackie

In 1867, the distillery changed hands to Mackie & Company Distillers Limited, marking a significant chapter in its history. The company’s head, Peter Mackie, later became a pivotal figure in the whisky industry.

Under his guidance, the distillery flourished and introduced the successful White Horse blended whisky in 1890, which had Lagavulin as its base. Mackie was known for his commitment to quality and his campaign for a minimum age for Scotch whisky. His death in 1924 left the distillery without his dynamic leadership​​​​.

The Diageo Era

In more recent times, Lagavulin has become part of the Diageo portfolio, a leading global alcoholic beverages company. This transition has seen further development and promotion of the Lagavulin brand on the international stage​​​​.

Distinctive Production Methods

Lagavulin is celebrated for its unique production techniques contributing to its distinct character. The distillery is known for its slow distillation process and the use of distinctive pear-shaped pot stills.

These methods, along with a specific cut taken from the spirit stills, result in the retention of more phenols, contributing to the heavily peated profile of its whiskies​​​​.

Special Releases and Recognition

Lagavulin regularly produces exceptional edition whiskies, like the 16-year-old single malt, which is a staple of their range and has gained worldwide acclaim. They also release limited edition whiskies with events like the Islay Jazz Festival, adding to their diverse and celebrated whisky portfolio​​​​​.

The rich history of Lagavulin Distillery is a testament to its enduring legacy in the whisky world. From its early beginnings in the 18th century to its current status as a producer of some of the most revered single malts, Lagavulin stands as a symbol of quality and tradition in Scotch whisky production.

Awards Won by Lagavulin Distillery

San Francisco World Spirits Competition (2005-2008): The Lagavulin 16-year-old earned four consecutive double gold medals at this prestigious event, a testament to its consistent excellence and superior quality.

Gold Medals in San Francisco World Spirits Competition (Post-2008): Following its streak of double golds, the Lagavulin 16-year-old continued to impress, securing gold medals in subsequent years, further cementing its status in the spirits world.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine Rating (2004): This renowned whisky was rated within the 90–95 point interval, highlighting its exceptional quality and character.

International Spirits Challenge Awards: Lagavulin has been a consistent performer at these challenges, with several of its whiskies, including the 16-year-old, receiving high accolades.

International Wine & Spirit Competition: Over the years, Lagavulin has garnered recognition at this competition, reflecting its global appeal and exceptional craftsmanship.

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible Awards: Jim Murray, a respected whisky critic, has frequently praised Lagavulin expressions, including the 16-year-old, in his annual Whisky Bible.

Malt Maniacs Awards: Known for their rigorous tasting standards, the Malt Maniacs have regularly awarded high scores to Lagavulin’s whiskies, especially the older vintages.

World Whiskies Awards: At these awards, which celebrate the world’s best whiskies, Lagavulin has often stood out, particularly in the categories focusing on single malts and age statements.

Scottish Whisky Awards: As a celebration of Scotland’s whisky heritage, Lagavulin has been recognized here for its contribution to the Scotch whisky industry.

Spirit Journal Ratings: Noted spirits critic Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal has frequently ranked Lagavulin’s offerings highly, particularly noting the balance and complexity of the 16-year-old.

Lagavulin Distillery Tour Information and Experience

Visiting the Lagavulin Distillery on Islay, Scotland, offers a unique and immersive experience into the world of one of the most renowned single malt Scotch whiskies. The distillery, known for its smoky and peaty whiskies, provides various tour options that cater to different interests and palates.

The Distillery Tour Options

Lagavulin Classic Tour: This tour offers a comprehensive experience that includes a guided tour of the distillery, a tutored tasting of three drams, and a sample of the distillery’s exclusive bottling. It’s an excellent way to get acquainted with the distillery’s operations and their whisky-making process.

Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive Experience: This more elaborate experience includes a visit to the iconic still house, where you can learn about Lagavulin’s history. The tour culminates in a tutored tasting within the Mackie Lounge, featuring new make spirit and five whiskies that showcase Lagavulin’s character. As a special memento, you get to hand-fill a 20cl bottle of a single cask whisky.

Warehouse Tasting: This is a unique opportunity to taste whisky directly from the cask in the distillery’s warehouse. Led by knowledgeable guides like Iain McArthur, the warehouse manager with over 44 years of experience at Lagavulin, this tasting experience lets you explore different ages and expressions of Lagavulin, from young to aged drams.

Visitor Experiences and Reviews

Visitors often highlight the warm and welcoming atmosphere at the distillery. The tasting room is frequently described as cosy and reminiscent of a living room, providing a relaxed and intimate setting for whisky tasting. The staff, known for their professionalism and deep knowledge of whisky, add to the richness of the experience, making it educational and enjoyable.

Planning Your Visit

Booking: It’s highly recommended to book your tour in advance to avoid disappointment.

Location: The distillery is situated near the ruins of Dunyveg Castle, offering stunning views of Lagavulin Bay.

Flask & Barrel Review of Lagavulin Distillery

As someone who’s been on quite a few distillery tours, I’d rate this one a solid 4.7 out of 5. Let me break it down for you.

First up, the setting. Lagavulin, nestled on Islay’s rugged coast, is a sight to behold. The journey there is part of the adventure, and arriving at this iconic spot, with its rich history and stunning views, sets the mood perfectly.

The tour itself? Top-notch. I chose the Lagavulin Classic Tour and it did not disappoint. The guide was a wealth of knowledge, blending historical tidbits with the technicalities of whisky-making in an informative and entertaining way. For a collector like me, getting insights into their process was fascinating.

Now, the tasting – the highlight for any whisky enthusiast. We sampled a variety of drams, including some exclusive bottlings. Each sip was a journey through rich, peaty flavours, characteristic of Islay malts.

As a collector, I particularly appreciated the chance to hand-fill my own bottle from a single cask – a unique souvenir to remember the visit by.

The staff’s hospitality and expertise added a lot to the experience. Their passion for whisky was evident, and it made the tour feel personal and engaging.

What To Do Nearby Lagavulin Distillery

Dunyvaig Castle: Explore the ruins of this historic castle located a few miles east of Port Ellen.

Machir Bay: Enjoy the tranquil sands and waves of this scenic bay on the west coast near Kilchoman.

Museum of Islay Life: Delve into Islay’s cultural history with over 3,000 artifacts in Port Charlotte.

Islay American Monument: Visit this impressive monument north of Port Ellen, commemorating American lives lost in WWI.

Discover Islay’s Distilleries: Tour other renowned distilleries on Islay, like Laphroaig and Ardbeg.

Kildalton Cross: Marvel at this ancient cross with intricate carvings east of Port Ellen.

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse: This unique square-shaped lighthouse is near Port Ellen harbour.

The Oa Nature Reserve: Experience stunning views and wildlife on this dramatic peninsula.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Lagavulin Distillery?

SeaSalt Bistro & Takeaway: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can contact them at +441496300300; their address is 57 Frederick Crescent.

Ellen’s Wok: This Chinese restaurant is rated 4.7 stars on Google Maps. It is located at 56 Frederick Crescent; you can contact them at +441496302292.

The Old Kiln Cafe: It has a rating of 4.0 stars on Google Maps. It is located at Ardbeg, Isle of Islay PA42 7EA, United Kingdom.

What hotels are near Lagavulin Distillery?

No. 1 Charlotte Street: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. This 3-star hotel offers cosy accommodation with bay views and bars. Their address is 1 Charlotte St, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay PA42 7DF, United Kingdom, and you can contact them at +441496300120.

Cala Sith Guesthouse: This 4-star hotel is rated 4.7 stars on Google Maps. Their address is 39 Frederick Cres, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay PA42 7DJ, United Kingdom; you can contact them at +441496302021.

Glenegedale House: It has a rating of 4.9 stars on Google Maps. This 5-star hotel provides a tranquil B&B experience with grandiose sea views. Their address is Glenegedale, Isle of Islay PA42 7AS, United Kingdom, and their contact number is +441496300400.