When over 120 different expressions of Lagavulin were on offer in our January 2020 auction, we thought it was the perfect time to start putting together a list of Lagavulin distillery bottlings.
Lagavulin distillery was founded in 1816 on the South coast of Islay at Lagavulin Bay, close to Dunyvaig Castle. Founder John Johnston took over a second distillery on the same site which was absorbed into Lagavulin in 1837.
The distillery was purchased by whisky blender John Logan Mackie in 1862, and his nephew, Peter J Mackie, would go on to become a prominent figure in the whisky trade in the late 19th century. In addition to running Lagavulin, he co-founded Craigellachie distillery and created the White Horse blend which was launched in 1890. The company changed its name to Mackie & Co. in the same year.
Following a dispute with neighbouring Laphroaig distillery (whose whisky used to supply Lagavulin’s blends), Mackie built Malt Mill distillery in 1908. With stills modelled on those found at Laphroaig, Malt Mill contributed to blends including Mackie’s Ancient Scotch and White Horse, but was never bottled as a single malt. Malt Mill closed in 1962 and its equipment was incorporated into Lagavulin. When Peter Mackie died in 1924, the company changed its name to White Horse Distillers. It became part of Distillers Company Limited in 1927.
In 1988, Lagavulin 16 Year Old was selected as Islay’s representative in the Classic Malts range. Although owner United Distillers thought the distillery’s heavily-peated character would deter the average whisky drinker, the malt became a runaway success.
From the early 2000s, a cask strength Lagavulin 12 Year Old has become a constant feature in Diageo’s annual Special Releases, and the Distillers Edition vintage series saw Lagavulin’s peat smoke tempered by Pedro Ximenez cask finishing.
Lagavulin distillery celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2016 by releasing an 8 Year Old expression as well as a limited number of its 25 Year Old to raise money for Islay charities.
Lagavulin was licensed under White Horse Distillers Ltd. The name appeared on the label until it was removed following the loss of the White Horse Royal Warrant in 2000.
Lagavulin 15 Year Old White Horse Ceramic Decanter, Bottled 1980s, 45% ABV
First released in 1997, the whisky in the Lagavulin Distillers Edition underwent extra maturation in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and was made available in both 70cl and 100cl bottles, all of which were bottled at 43% ABV.
Lagavulin 2003 Distillers Edition, Bottled 2019
The first bottling of Lagavulin 12 Year Old Cask Strength was launched as part of Diageo’s Special Releases in 2002. They continue to be released annually and the design remained virtually unchanged until 2019.
As well as the annual 12 Year Old cask strength bottling, there have been a number of older age statement bottlings of Lagavulin released as part of the Diageo Special Releases.
The annual Feis Ile festival on Islay began in the mid 1980s to revive the Gaelic language and culture. What was once a Gaelic dance festival has now developed into full-blown celebration of Islay culture and distilleries. The first release of Lagavulin’s Feis Ile Single Cask came in 2007. The final single cask was bottled in 2012, after which the Lagavulin Feis Ile release was bottled from a vatting of casks.
The annual Islay Jazz Festival is promoted by Jazz Scotland and the Islay Arts Association and is sponsored by Lagavulin. The first festival edition was released in 2011. The bottlings switched from single casks to vattings after 2012.