Laphroaig is one of the most famous peated single malts in the world. Founded one year earlier than its fierce rival, Lagavulin, the distillery has proudly stood on the shores of the Hebridean island of Islay since 1815.
Brothers Donald and Alexander Johnstone founded Laphroaig at a time when illicit distilling was rife on Islay. The distillery remained in the family for more than a century, despite family tragedy when Donald tragically fell into a vat of ale in 1847.
In the 1920s, distillery manager Ian Hunter’s then-pioneering use of ex-Bourbon barrels transformed Laphroaig’s style. After a brief closure when it was used as a barracks and ammunition store in the 1940s, the distillery reopened and Hunter introduced Bessie Williamson to Laphroaig, and the world.
Williamson went on to become a legendary figure in the industry, as the first and only woman to own and run a Scotch distillery in the 20th century. She used this to her and Laphroaig’s advantage in her near-30 year association with the distillery, capitalising on opportunities to raise Islay’s profile domestically and in the United States. By the time she retired in 1972, Williamson had secured a new owner for the distillery (Long John Distillers) who modernised production techniques, increased warehousing capacity, and safeguarded Laphroaig’s position as one of the most in-demand and well-respected single malts.
Today, the distillery is owned by Beam Suntory. At approximately 3.3 million litres of alcohol per year, Laphroaig’s output is larger than Lagavulin (2.5m) but dwarfed by Caol Ila – the largest on Islay – and Speyside-based Glenlivet, at a staggering 22 million.
Laphroaig whiskies are robust, peated and full of character. Prince Charles is one of the distillery’s most high-profile fans. The heir apparent personally awarded it a Royal Warrant in 1994, celebrated his 60th birthday at the distillery in 2008, and attended Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary celebrations in 2015. It is well documented that the Prince misjudged the plane landing on one visit in 1994.