Lagavulin is rightly famous and is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts selection and comes at various ages and expressions. When White Horse Distillers, the owners, became part of DCL in 1927, Lagavulin was transferred within the group to its subsidiary, Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. However, Lagavulin was subsequently licensed to White Horse Distillers Limited, thus re-establishing the old link, which survived for many years.
Lagavulin dates from 1816 and celebrated 200 years of unbroken production in 2016 with the appearance of an 8 years old, a12 years old and a 25 years old, the latter having already gained scarcity status and now selling at up to three times its price at the time of release. However, there is also an even scarcer option in the form of the 1991 single cask (522 bottles) at 52.5% ABV. This was available only through ballot with the proceeds supporting Islay-based charities.
John Johnston started legal distilling at Lagavulin in 1816 as did Archibald Campbell in 1817 at Ardmore Distillery, next door. The two businesses apparently worked well alongside each other but eventually only one survived with Ardmore being absorbed into Lagavulin around 1837. In 1852 the Graham family acquired the enlarged distillery and continued to own it until James Logan Mackie, in partnership with Capt. John Graham, bought it in 1867 for use in his blends, including White Horse.
Lagavulin’s subsequent prominence undoubtedly owed much to the vigour with which Peter Mackie pursued all aspects of his business. This did not always produce positive results, and, for example, led to a long-standing dispute with Laphroaig Distillery next door, for whose whisky he once was the sales agent.
There is more about White Horse and its associated brands and distilleries under the White Horse Story.