Laphroaig is a Norse-Gaelic hybrid which means the
‘hollow of broad Bay’. The distillery was founded by the
two brothers Donald and Axel Johnston. As so many other
distillers at the time the two farmers only started
their production to satisfy their own domestic needs.
However the whisky from Laphroaig quickly became
well-known due to the quality of the water they used and
to the natural talent of the Johnston brothers.
Naturally they soon began to sell some of their whisky
for a nice profit. This illegal business was made easier
since the area surrounding Laphroaig was ideal for
Because of the illegal beginning, the early history of
the distillery is not completely known. However
Laphroaig officially claim that they were founded in
1815. We also know that Laphroaig gained their licence
in 1826. Donald Johnston bought his brother’s share of
the company in 1836 and ran Laphroaig himself until his
death in 1847. By then his son Dugald was only eleven
years old and could not take over the business
immediately. The business was therefore leased to a
trustee of Johnston’s estate, a man named Alexander
Graham who also ran Lagavulin. Dugald took over in 1857
and ran the company until 1877 when he died. Alexander
Johnston became the new owner and continued to develop
Laphroaig which by then already was a highly appreciated
At the turn of the century Laphroaig wished to cancel
Lagavulin’s agency which still remained from the time
when Alexander Graham was alive. This created some
tension between the two companies and they met in court
several times until 1907 when the lease ran out and
Laphroaig refused to renew the contract. Mackie and Co,
the current owners of Lagavulin, responded by cutting
off Laphroaig’s water supply. This resulted in another
round at court which Laphroaig won. In 1908 Mackie and
Co bought over the distillery manager at Laphroaig.
Their goal was to create exact copies of the stills at
Laphroaig and create an identical whisky. The venture
failed and Mackie and Co instead made several offers to
buy Laphroaig but their offers were turned down every
time. Ian Hunter took over Laphroaig in 1921 and made
several modernizations, for example the production
capacity was doubled in 1923. Ian Hunter also introduced
the concept of storing the whisky in bourbon casks.
During WW2 production was completely shut down since
Laphroaig was used as a garrison. Ian Hunter died
heirless in 1954, but in his will he left the entire
distillery to Bessie Williamson. Bessie was the niece of
his accountant and had worked at Laphroaig ever since
one summer in the thirties when she had been appointed
Ian’s temporary secretary. She was a pragmatic owner and
soon realised that Laphroaig needed a strong financial
partner to meet the increasing competition. She
therefore sold the company to Long John in the sixties.
In 1990 Laphroaig was bought by Allied Distillers which
are the current owners. In 1994 Prince Charles visited
the distillery and presented them with the Royal Warrant.
A Royal Warrant is an official approval that can only be
bestowed by a few members of the royal family. By giving
this honour to the Laphroaig distillery Prince Charles
declared that he is of the opinion that Laphroaig is the
best whisky in the world.
The Laphroaig fan club is named ‘Friends of Laphroaig’.
You may become a member if you buy a bottle of Laphroaig
and register the bottle’s barcode at their website. As a
member you will also be the owner of one square foot of
Islay just outside the distillery.
Isle of Islay
Argyll, PA42 7DU
Phone: +44 (0) 1496 302418
Fax: +44 (0) 141558 9010
Laphroaig official website >>
Laphroaig welcome visitors
all year round. Guided tours start at 10.15 am and 2.15
pm. Make sure to book in advance. Production is closed
down in July/August due to maintenance. The admission is
The visitor centre feels fresh and welcoming and has a
very nice bar. They also have a museum which tells the
history about Laphroaig. If you are a member of Friends
of Laphroaig you get a free 5ml dram as ‘interest’ for
your square foot of Islay.
exchange have a good range of
Click here for Laphroaig
from the Ordnance Survey
Image reproduced with kind permission of
Ordnance Survey and
Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.
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