Lagavulin distillery

Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

What actually happened was that Lagavulin became the runaway success, to the extent that it had to be put on allocation. That its growth coincided with a period where mature stock was limited (the bad old days of the 80s and early 90s) didn’t help. Today, it runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just to try and keep up with ever-growing global demand. The world has fallen in love with smoke and Lagavulin’s complex mix of seashore and moor, pipe smoke, Lapsang Souchong, bog myrtle and rich dark fruits is a destination for many.

Though fermentation times have been cut, introducing a cereal note to the new make, the second distillation remains extremely long, maximising reflux. Ageing is predominantly in refill casks, but in recent years some ex-Sherry casks have appeared as part of a controlled programme of small batch releases, while a small amount of a higher strength 12-year-old is released annually for the real peat heads. 

  • Region
  • Production type
    Single malt
  • Distillery Status

Lagavulin History

Founded on Islay’s south [Kildalton] coast and situated between Ardbeg and Laphroaig, legal distilling was started at Lagavulin in 1816 by John Johnston. A second distillery shared the site which was first bought by the same family in 1825, before production was absorbed into Lagavulin in 1837.

It came to wider public awareness in 1862 when blender John Logan Mackie bought the distillery. His nephew Peter J. Mackie made the first of many trips to Islay in 1878 to learn the secrets of distilling and eventually take over production of Lagavulin. Sir Peter Mackie, as he became, was one of the pre-eminent figures of late 19th century whisky. He created the White Horse blend in 1890, co-founded Craigellachie distillery and was noted as a great innovator.

In 1908, irritated by the loss of the agency for Laphroaig, Mackie built a replica distillery at Lagavulin which he called Malt Mill. It ran until 1962 and though it was set up to produce the same character as Laphroaig – which is only two miles away – it never did. Neither did it make Lagavulin. A (fictitious) cask of Malt Mill played a central role in film director Ken Loach’s comedy The Angel’s Share.

The distillery floor maltings shut in 1974. They now form the visitor’s centre and admin offices.


  • 1816 Lagavulin is founded by John Johnstone in Port Ellen on Islay
  • 1825 Johnstone branches out and also takes over the adjacent Ardmore distillery, which has lain closed since 1821
  • 1835 Ten years after purchasing the distillery, Johnstone ceases production at Ardmore
  • 1836 Johnstone dies and the distillery is purchased by Glasgow spirit merchant Alexander Graham
  • 1837 The two distilleries are merged and operated as Lagavulin
  • 1852 John Crawford Graham takes over the distillery
  • 1862 Lagavulin moves into the hands of James Logan Mackie & Co who refurbishes it
  • 1889 James Logan Mackie dies and his nephew, Peter Mackie, assumes control of the distillery
  • 1890 The group changes its name to Mackie & Co and launches White Horse into export markets
  • 1908 Mackie builds a second distillery on the site, Malt Mill
  • 1924 When Peter Mackie passes away the group changes its name to White Horse Distillers
  • 1927 White Horse Distillers becomes part of DCL
  • 1941 The distillery is closed for the remainder of WWII
  • 1951 A destructive fire breaks out at the distillery
  • 1962 Malt Mill is closed
  • 1974 Lagavulin's floor maltings are decommissioned
  • 1988 Lagavulin 16 Year Old is selected as one of the six Classic Malts
  • 2014 A triple-matured expression is released for the Friends of the Classic Malts

Lagavulin Facts

  • Condenser Type i
    Shell and tube
  • Fermentation Time i
    Minimum 55hrs
  • Filling Strength i
  • Grist Weight (t) i
  • Heat Source i
  • Malt Specification i
    Heavy peated
  • Malt Supplier i
    Mainly in house
  • Mash Tun Type i
  • New-make Phenol Level i
    Heavily peated
  • New-make Strength i
  • Spirit Still Charge (l) i
  • Spirit Still Shape i
  • Stills i
  • Wash Still Charge (l) i
  • Wash Still Shape i
  • Washback Type i
  • Washbacks i
  • Water Source i
    Lochan Sholum
  • Wort Clarity i
  • Yeast Type i


Current owner

Previous owners


Lagavulin Distillery
Port Ellen
Isle of Islay
PA42 7DZ
United Kingdom
+44 1496 302749
Visitor Opening Hours
9am (Mar-Oct), 10am (Nov-Feb) to 4pm (Nov-Feb) 5pm (Mar, Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (May-Aug)
9am (Mar-Oct), 10am (Nov-Feb) to 4pm (Nov-Feb) 5pm (Mar, Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (May-Aug)
9am (Mar-Oct), 10am (Nov-Feb) to 4pm (Nov-Feb) 5pm (Mar, Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (May-Aug)
9am (Mar-Oct), 10am (Nov-Feb) to 4pm (Nov-Feb) 5pm (Mar, Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (May-Aug)
9am (Mar-Oct), 10am (Nov-Feb) to 4pm (Nov-Feb) 5pm (Mar, Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (May-Aug)
9am (Mar-Oct), 10am (Nov-Feb) to 4pm (Nov-Feb), 5pm (Mar-Oct)
9am to 5pm (Mar-Oct)


See also

  • Auchroisk Auchroisk Auchroisk Distillery & brand


    One of Diageo’s ‘nutty-spicy’ sites.

  • Benrinnes Benrinnes Benrinnes Distillery & brand


    A highly individual Speyside whisky.

  • Blair Athol Blair Athol Blair Athol Distillery & brand

    Blair Athol

    The home of Bell's blended whisky.

  • Caol Ila Caol Ila Caol Ila Distillery & brand

    Caol Ila

    Islay distillery belonging to Diageo.

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