The secret of Lagavulin is the slow pace at which every process is completed. There is no rushing here and the resultant dark ambrosia is unique whisky. Located in Port Ellen, Islay, since 1816, the distillery occupies six acres of the island, at the head of a small bay near the south coast of Islay. It is owned by White Horse Distillers, Glasgow, makers of a number of other popular whiskies, but none as unique as what is produced here.
Lagavulin stands near the ruins of Dunyveg Castle. The area has played a crucial role in Scotland’s history. Lagavulin claims to be one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Despite the fact that the distillery was established in1816, distilling on the site dates back to 1742. There were ten illicit stills here in the late 1700s but by the 1830s there were only two distilleries left in the bay. These merged in 1837 to form Lagavulin. The distillery was owned by the Graham brothers and James Logan Mackie. The latter was the uncle of Sir Peter Mackie who known in his time as one of the ‘big five’ in the whisky industry.
The two major factors for the distinctive flavor of the whisky produced at Lagavulin are the peat and the water. The peaty bog on the west of the island gives its smoky peaty flavor to all the South Eastern Islay malts. The barley used to distil the Lagavulin whisky is malted at nearby Port Ellen and has a strong peat aroma. The richly peaty process water used in the distillery comes down to the plant from the Solan Lochs in the hills above the distillery. Peter Mackie, former owner of the distillery made sure that this water that came down the brown burn was not shared with anyone else.
There are four stills functioning at Lagavulin. Two of them are pear-shaped, reminiscent of the Malt Mill. They give the peaty wort all the time and care in the world. The distillation process is the slowest in Islay and has been a tradition at Lagavulin from its early days. The mash is distilled for five hours during the first distillation process and for more than nine hours in the second round. The characteristic roundness and soft, mellow edges of Lagavulin are often attributed to this unique slow distillation process. The long fermentation, long distillation and long maturation of the spirit ensure that Lagavulin has all the time to develop all of its long, rich, peaty character. This is a whisky that likes to take its time and the imbiber is rewarded for his patience.
The Lagavulin Distillers Edition is a popular Pedro Ximinez sherry finished whisky
Lagavulin 25year old, bottled at cask strength is a woody, complex version and very highly rated. Lagavulin 30 year old is from refill American Oak casks filled in 1976. Their popular whisky is the Old Style 12 year old. Many of these are unchillfiltered, like in the old days.