Laphroaig Islay malt whisky :
It is used in the Islay Mist Blend.
Laphroaig (Gaelic: "The beautiful hollow by the broad bay") has its
own peat-beds on Islay and a beautifully-maintained floor maltings at the
distillery. Its maturation warehouses face directly on to the sea.
The distillery was built in the 1820s by Donald and Alex Johnston whose
family name is still on the label. In 1847 Donald died two days after falling
into a vat of partially-made whisky ("Burnt Ale"). There were no doubt
more raised eyebrows when in the late 1950s and early 1960s the distillery
was owned by a woman, Miss Bessie Williamson.
From the book : Malt Whisky - A contemporary Guide - By Mr. Graham Moore :
Laphroaig is one of the most, if not the most, distinctive of all malt whiskies and many adjectives have been used to describe it -
medicinal, phenolic, tangy, oily, and peaty being just a few.
For many it is an acquired taste, but one which rewards persistence.
Alexander and Donald Johnston were farmers at Laphroaig and set up a small distillery which became
'official' in 1826.
Donald bought out his brother ten years later to become sole owner.
He died in somewhat bizarre circumstances in June 1847 after falling into a vat of burnt ale.
Following his death Laphroaig was leased to a trustee of his estate,
Alexander Graham of Lagavulin.
Johnston's son Dugald, was only 11 years old at the time and did not take over until 1857.
Even then Lagavulin continued as agents until 1907,
when Laphroaig was being run by Dungald's brother in law, Alex.
After Alex died the new owners decided to terminate Lagavulin's agency
and they considered the terms to be unfair.
By this time Lagavulin was owned by Peter Mackie and the Johnstons took Mackie to court.
He was so annoyed that he responded with a little landscaping work at the lade which cut off Laphroaig's water and resulted in another court case.
As a parting shot, and following his experiments with the Malt Mill Distillery,
Mackie made two unsuccessful attempts to buy out Laphroaig when its lease came up for renewal.
The owners fought off the bids with the help of their new agents, Robertson & Baxter.
The distillery became a limited company in 1950 and from 1954 to 1967,
when it was taken over by Long John, it was run by a Miss Williamson,
who was in effect the only lady distiller in Scotland.
In 1990 Long John sold Laphroaig to Allied Distillers.
Refurbishment is in evidence in the stillhouse,
and the tun room has stainless steel washbacks and a lauter mash tun.
Some 90 per cent of production goes for blending, yet in the world single malt market Laphroaig ranks in the top ten.
The name is a contraction from the original Gaelic meaning ' the beautiful hollow by the broad bay ',
and the distillery stands on the shore of Loch Laphroaig on Islay's south coast.
The warehouses are right at the water's edge and between them hold in bond some 55.000 casks.
The site now incorporates that of Andrew and James Stein's Ardenistle Distillery,
which flourished briefly from 1837 to 1842, and included amongst Laphroaig's buildings is a hall where the local villagers hold their ceilidhs.
From the Whisky pilot by Uniqum Systems :
The Johnstons, who started Laphroaig distillery, were of MacDonald stock, being descenders of MacIan of Ardnamurchan. After the 1745 rebellion, three brothers of this clan came to Islay to farm - Roland at Corairan, Alexander at Tigh Cargaman, now Port Ellen and Duncan at Tallant.
Two sons of Alexander, Donald and Alexander, started farming at Laphroaig some time between 1810 and 1816. They started a small distillery there. Donald Johnston is entered with the Excise as Distiller in 1826. He bought out his brother in 1836 and became the sole owner. The land was then owned by the Campbells and he was their tenant.
Donald died in June 1847. He had survived only two days after falling into a 'Burnt Ale' vat at the distillery. Donald had been married twice. He left one son and four daughters with his first wife and one child of his second marriage. He left no will but had deposited in the bank at Bridgend £250 for each of the daughters of his first marriage. His son, Dugald, was then only eleven and there was no one to run the distillery. It was leased to Graham of Lagavulin for nine years until Dugald became of age to take over.
The trustees of the estate were the above mentioned, Graham and his cousin John Johnston of Tallant, who had married Donald's sister Mary. Dugald took over the running of the distillery in 1857 and the Lagavulin people continued as agents until 1907 when the agency was terminated.
Dugald Johnston continued as distiller until he died in 1877. He left no heir. As his sister, Isabella, had married Alexander Johnston of Tallant, he became the next Distiller and ran the distillery on behalf of his wife and her sisters. He died in 1907 having been pre-deceased by his wife, who had left her share of the distillery to him.
After his death there was a long court case which culminated in the distillery being inherited by his two sisters, Mrs William Hunter and Miss Katherine Johnston, and his nephew, Mr J Johnston Hunter, who was then Chief Engineer with Glasgow Tramways.In 1908, Mrs William Hunter's son, Ian Hunter, who had completed his training as an engineer, was sent to Islay to look after the interests of his mother and his aunt. Ian Hunter's father was a seed merchant in Leith and his Aunt was farming at Tallant Farm in Islay.
Because of various court cases, money was hard to come by when Mr Ian Hunter came to Islay. He had quite a struggle to keep things going, particularly as a new lease was due to be made with the owners, Ramsay of Kildaton. Mackie and Company, Lagavulin, had put in a higher offer to rent Laphroaig. However, eventually everything was straightened out and in 1921, the owners decided to sell the estate and gave the Distillers the first opportunity to buy the land. This applied to Ardbeg and Lagavulin as well as Laphroaig. Again Mackie tried to outbid Laphroaig without success. After the completion of the purchase, it was decided to increase the capacity of Laphroaig and, by 1923, the capacity was doubled and the Maltings, as they now stand, were completed. A new wash still and spirit still, duplicates of the existing stills, were erected.
About 1927, Mr Hunter decided to terminate the agency with Robertson & Baxter and sell direct from Laphroaig. He continued to do this until he died and his policy was carried on until Long John took over in 1972. The distillery had its ups and downs, particularly in the 1930's, but managed to struggle trough and maintain its good name in the blending trade.
In 1928, the Laird of Islay House asked Mr Hunter to supply whisky for his son's coming of age (now Lord Margedale) and it was then that the blend Islay Mist was created. It was thought that Laphroaig might be too heavy for everyone's tastes so a de-luxe blend of Malt Whisky and Grain was made up. It proved so popular that it was decided to market it commercially and it become known in many parts of the world as de-luxe blend with the Islay peaty flavour. It was not until after the WWII that it was exported in any quantity and McPherson, Train & Co. were appointed export agents.
Laphroaig continued to be popular as a Single Islay Malt Whisky and also much in demand as a blending whisky. During the 1960's and 1970's, under the guidance of Long John, the distillery capacity was increased without losing any of the old character of Laphroaig.
Mr Ian Hunter inherited the distillery when his mother died in 1928 (his Aunt died in 1927 and his cousin in 1922) and ran it as sole partner until 1950, when he made it into a private limited company with himself as Managing Director, Miss B. Williamson as Secretary and Director and his lawyer, Mr D. McCowan Hill as Director. Mr Hunter died in 1954 after a long illness (arterial sclerosis) and Miss Williamsson succeeded as Managing Director. She continued in this capacity until Long John took over control in 1967 when she continued as Chairman and Director until 1972 when she retired.
Laphroaig then became part of the Whitbread Brewing Empire, later called James Burrough Limited on the acquisition of Beefeater Gin.In 1990 James Burrough Limited was purchased by Allied Distillers Limited and thus joined Ballantines and Hiram Walker to become the second biggest whisky distillers in Scotland.