Updated 25 November 2021

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Laphroaig Distillery | Opinions Welcome

Laphroaig Distillery is one of few distilleries in Scotland who still malt some of their barley on site, and even rarer again, they continue to hand cut their own peat. 

Laphroaig is also the only whisky distillery awarded a Royal Warrant by Prince Charles, issued during his first visit to the distillery in 1994. He followed up with a repeat visit in 2008 as part of his 60th birthday celebrations.  

You'll find Laphroaig Distillery nestled in woodland, 1.8 miles from Port Ellen, the first of three distilleries on Islay's south east-coast line (the other two being Lagavulin and Ardbeg) it is well worth a tour if you're visiting Islay.

Laphroaig Whisky Distillery, Islay, Scotland

How to Pronounce Laphroaig

How to pronounce Laphroaig, courtesy of Brian Cox ...

Laphroaig Whisky

Laphroaig (and Ardbeg) can be quite polarising, even for peat freaks. Laphroaig have skillfully utilised the love/hate relationship people tend to have with their whisky in a campaign that goes by the tag "Opinions Welcome" (#OpinionsWelcome).

Wall tiles at the Laphroaig Distillery entrance, printed with the many and varied opinions of Laphroaig: "Burnt Tyres" | "Like Licking A Peat Stove's Ashtray" | "Unapologetically Impolite, Undeniably Luscious"

My family have prohibited me from opening Laphroaig 10 in their house - the vapours seem to encroach upon their personal space, and they do not approve. Laphroaig was the first Scotch single malt I ever tried, and I almost didn't try another single malt whisky after that. I don't mind a Laphroaig 10 nowadays, though my personal favourite is the Laphroaig Triple Wood.

Ralfy has reviewed Laphroaig 10 more than most other bottlings - 5 times in 8 years (see reviews 30, 272, 501 and 575 in addition to 686 below) - partly because he considers it a benchmark peated single malt whisky, but also because of the changes to peat intensity over time. The variation can partly be attributed to the evolution of his palate, but is mostly due to factors such as yield from the malted barley grains ("which distillers are ever trying to increase") as well as the age of the whisky relative to the quality of the casks used in the maturation process (first fill vs refill).

He notes that "the prominent feature of Laphroaig is a seashore coastal mineral note, hard to pin down as it's not a specific flavour - it's part of a range of flavour sensations like sweet, sour, salt, bitter and savoury/umami. This umami/savoury sensation is really quite discernible/prominent in Laphroaig; it's one of its main feature characteristics ... particularly at a young age."

In 2017 he described the Laphroaig 10 as having a "raw, vegetal, twiggy, smoke-infused peaty-ness" with "old sultanas that have been in the jar for quite a while".

Where is Laphroaig Distillery?

Laphroaig is the first of three distilleries (Lagavulin and Ardbeg being the other two) on Islay's south-east coastline. It's a short drive (1.8 miles) or a 30-40 min walk from Port Ellen.

Islay Distillery Map

Laphroaig Distillery Tours, Pricing & Bookings

Laphroaig Distillery are currently not offering distillery tours, however, tastings are available. All visits to the distillery must be booked in advance at the moment, including if you'd just like to visit the distillery shop. Online bookings are available, otherwise telephone: (+44) 01496 302418 or email tourbookings@laphroaig.com.

November and December 2021, closed Monday and Tuesday's. Christmas season, closed 12:30pm Friday 17th December
Shop open 29th, 30th, 31st December 10:00-16:00. Reopen from Monday 10th January 2022.

Warehouse 1 Tasting

Sample 3 Laphroaig whiskies straight from the cask inside Warehouse 1 (see photos below). Once you've explored the flavours and character of all three, pick your favourite and handfill a 250ml bottle to take home. This tasting includes a trip to the Visitor Centre and Shop (so you don't need to book that separately). Maximum 4 persons per tasting, £60.00 per person, approximately 60 minutes duration.

Entrance to the Laphroaig Visitor Centre (Warehouse 1 is on the left)

Laphroaig whisky distillery, Isle of Islay, Scotland

Laphroaig Distillery Images

Warehouse 1, Laphroaig Whisky Distillery, Islay, Scotland

Laphroaig steep their barley for three days, with three separtae lots of water changed daily

Barley grains are soaked in water for three days. The water is drained and replaced three times a day.

Tiny little shoots are visible in the germinating barley on the Laphroaig Malt Floor

One of the conveyors used to drive the malt through the distillery.

Lauter Mash Tun at Laphroaig Distillery, Islay, Scotland

Inside Laphroaig's Lauter Mash Tun

The beautiful fat bottoms of spirit stills no. 1 and no. 2 at Laphroaig, with the condenser of no. 1 in the middle background.

The spirit and wash stills (minus no.1 spirit still) at Laphroaig Distillery

Three of the four spirit stills at Laphroaig Distillery, and the Spirit Safe on the right.

The full complement of spirit and wash stills at Laphroaig Distillery

The low wines receiver bowl from Wash Still No. 1 in the Low Wines safe at Laphroaig Distillery. Black and white photograph

The low wines receiver bowl from Wash Still No. 2, in the spirit safe at Laphroaig Distillery.

The three low wines receiver bowls, from the three Wash Stills, at Laphroaig Distillery

Thermometers in the Low Wines Safe at Laphroaig Distillery for Wash Stills 1 and 2. The Stillman can determine the concentration of alcohol in liquid passing through using a combination of the liquid's temperature and its density (measured with a hydrometer, not pictured). The Wash Stills at Laphroiag run for roughly 5.5 hours, producing low wines at ~35%.

Valve Knobs for the No. 3 Wash Still on the Laphroaig Distillery Spirit Safe.

Thermometer close up in the Spirit Safe at Laphroaig Distillery. The Stillman can determine the concentration of alcohol in liquid passing through the spirit safe using a combination of the liquid's temperature and its density (measured with a hydrometer, not pictured). Full colour photograph

What Else Is Nearby

Accommodation

There are a small number of hotel options near Laphroaig, specifically in Port Ellen, one of the main towns on Islay, though you'll find the broadest accommodation selection via Airbnb. Port Ellen is easy to get around on foot, and there are several restaurants and cafes, as well as a supermarket and a post office, which makes it a convenient location for families or those reliant on public transport.

References & Further Reading

About the author

Amanda

Amanda is an Australian-born photographer, digital nomad and whisky lover. Her passion for travel and whisky lead her to Islay, where she fell in love with an Ileach (an Islay native). Amanda and Roddy now share their Spirited Adventures.

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