Laphroaig is a single-malt scotch whisky brewed at the Laphroaig distillery, situated on the south coast of the island of Islay and named after the area near Loch Laphroaig. The brand and distillery are owned and operated by Beam Suntory.
The Laphroaig brewery was started in 1815 by Donald and Alexander Johnston. HRH Prince Charles, now King Charles III, visited Laphroaig for the first time in 1994 and gave the distillery his Royal Warrant.
History of Laphroaig Whisky
Two brothers, Donald and Alexander, Johnston started to lease 1000 acres of land from the laird of Islay, now known as Laphroaig, for rearing cattle. Barley was grown for feed during the long winter months. The Johnston brothers decided to distill whiskey with the surplus barley.
By 1815 the reputation of the excellent quality of the whisky produced at Laphroaig had spread to the extent that it was more profitable to distill whisky than breed and raise cattle. In 1815 Laphroaig whisky was “officially” born.
Donald bought the farm from his brother Alexander who emigrated to Australia. Donald only lived until 1847. Rumor has it that he drowned after falling into a vat of partially-made whisky.
The only heir was his son Dugald who, at 11 years old, was too young to take control. His Uncle John Johnston managed the distillery until 1857 when Dugald was old enough to take control.
Ian Hunter, a nephew of Sandy Johnson, was the last Johnson to run the distillery. On his death in 1954, the distillery was left to one of his managers, Bessie Williamson, who retired in 1972.
From 1962 when Bessie transferred ownership to Long John Internationa, the distilleries ownership was transferred to a procession of Scottish distilling companies and finally sold to Beam Suntory in April 2014.
War with the Neighbours
A large portion of Laphroaig’s production was sold for blending with grain whisky to their neighbors at Lagavulin, a company owned by Mackie and Co., who were Glasgow spirit and blending merchants.
Selling most of their production to Mackie and Co troubled Dugald as it restricted Laphroaig’s ability to sell its single malt whiskey to a broader market. Finally, in the late 1880s, Laphroaig terminated their agreement.
Mackie and Co. accused Laphroaig of acting illegally but lost the court case. In 1907 Peter Mackie had Laphroaig’s distillery’s water supply, the Kilbride Stream, blocked off. Without water, the distillery was unable to function.
The courts intervened quickly, and the water supply was restored. In 1908 Peter Mackie persuaded Laphroaig’s head brewer to work at Lagavulin, and he built an exact copy of the Laphroaig still house. But, unfortunately, he could still not replicate the quality and flavor of Laphroaig.
When Ian Hunter took over in 1921, there was not much money available due to the many court cases, but he revitalized the distillery, and by 1923 the capacity had doubled.
How is Laphroaig Whisky Made?
Barley is soaked (steeped) for two days in water from the Kilbride Reservoir, allowing the barley seeds to germinate and release enzymes. Then, the water is drained, and the malt is transferred to the malting floors.
The heat for the kilning is created using a peat-fired oven that uses moss from the Scottish peat bogs near the distillery and is hand-cut by distillery workers.
In a process lasting approximately 17 hours, the smoke (peat reek) rises through the perforated drying floor into the kiln, where the damp barley absorbs vaporized oils, phenolic compounds, and wood-based smokey flavors.
The peat is burnt at a relatively low temperature ( a cold smoking process) and is responsible for the typical tarry notes of Laphroaig. The barley is then dried using hot air recycled from the still house.
The malted barley is then milled and placed in stainless steel mash tuns, where the barley is mashed with water from the Kilbride Reservoir and cooked to convert all the carbohydrates into sugars.
The sugary water (wort) is transferred to washbacks, where Laphroaig’s yeast is added to convert the sugars to alcohol while also developing flavor compounds responsible for Laphroaig’s fruity notes. The fermentation process lasts a minimum of 55 hours.
After fermentation, the wort has an alcohol content of 8.5% ABV. The Laphroaig distillery has seven pot stills – three larger wash stills and four smaller spirit stills. All the stills are made of copper, which has the effect of stripping sulphuric flavor compounds from the spirit.
Laphroaig follows a double distillation process where the first distillation in a wash still produces an alcohol content of 22% ABV.
During the second distillation, the head and tail of the run are discarded, and only the middle cut is used to be pumped into oak casks for maturing. Selecting the correct portion of the run to save for the middle cut can significantly impact the spirit’s flavor.
Laphroaig discards more from the first cut (the head) and takes the second cut (the tail) later than the industry average, making it less sweet and retaining its tarry, medicinal, peaty notes.
The selected middle cut is diluted to an alcohol content of 63.5% ABV and then pumped into previously used American bourbon oak casks, where the whiskey is laid down to mature in one of the Laphroaig warehouses until it is deemed ready for consumption.
The whisky for the quarter cask matures in standard ex-bourbon barrels before being transferred to smaller quarter-size casks where the spirit has more contact with the wood.
Laphroaig Whisky Price, Variations, and Sizes
The following are varieties of Laphroaig single malt whiskey available in the United States:
Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Laphroaig single malt is made from malted barley, which is cold-smoked and then dried over a peat fire giving this single malt whiskey its bold and smokey, medicinal flavor followed by a surprising sweetness and a hint of seaweed.
Laphroaig is perfect for sipping neat or with a splash of water. It can be served on the rocks, although it will dilute the taste if too many ice blocks are used.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Quarter Cask is double distilled, beginning its maturation in ex-bourbon barrels, and while still maturing, is transferred to small quarter-sized casks, thus allowing the spirit to have more contact with the wood.
Quarter Cask is a deep, complex whisky with flavors of smokey peat, while the aging in smaller American Oak casks lends to flavors of coconut, banana, and vanilla. It should be enjoyed straight or with a dash of water.
Laphroaig Lore Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Lore is created by selecting spirits from five different cask types, including ex-bourbon barrels, 19th-century-style quarter-casks, and large Oloroso sherry butts, aged from seven to 21 years, with each spirit bringing its particular element to the blend.
Lore has a rich, smokey taste with hints of dark chocolate, a long sweet finish, and a spicy tingle.
This distinctive blend is created from several different casks, including Oloroso Sherry Butts, white American oak, Pedro Ximenez seasoned hogsheads, Quarter casks, and first-fill bourbon casks.
It is a good entry into peated whisky and not as intense as other offerings by Laphroaig but still a complex, deep whiskey with notes of oak, peat, and sweetness.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2022 Warehouse 1
Cairdeas is a limited Edition, bottled exclusively annually for Friends of Laphroaig. Membership is free and quick, and it is easy to become a member. Each annual release features a new whisky that distinguishes it from Laphroaig’s core range.
Cairdeas 2022 Warehouse 1 is a single malt aged in first-fill ex-Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels. Warehouse 1’s four-level construction with varying temperature and humidity ranges and exposure to rugged conditions lend a maritime quality to the whisky.
Laphroaig 25-Year-Old Cask Strength
This 25-Year-Old is aged 25 years in Oloroso sherry butts and ex-Bourbon barrels. This mellow single-malt scotch has the distinctive Laphroaig flavor of peat smoke with a medicinal edge with notes of vanilla and spiced apple.
Laphroaig 25 Year Old is bottled at cask strength at 51.9% ABV for a deep intensity – It is best tasted neat to get that straight-from-the-barrel flavor, but a splash of water can be added if desired.
Average Retail Prices for Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky
|Laphroaig Quarter Cask||750ml||48%||$75|
|Laphroaig Cairdeas 2022||750ml||52.2%||$118|
|Laphroaig 25-Year-Old Cask Strength||750ml||51.9||$599|
More Expensive Bottles of Laphroaig Whisky
Laphroaig 30-Year-Single-Malt Scotch Whisky
Laphroaig 30-year Single Malt is aged 30 years and bottled at cask strength. Although currently unavailable, its estimated selling price is $14139 (ex-tax).
A 1967 Laphroaig, bottled as a 15-year-old by Italian bottler Samaroli, was sold in August 2018 for £61,000 at auction.
The following are alternative or similar whiskeys to Laphroaig 10-Year-Old if you are looking to try something different:
Uigeadail is an Islay whisky bottled at 54% ABV with an intense peaty flavor full of smoke, warm earthy notes, and sherry sweetness. It can be sipped neat or with a splash of water.
Talisker 8 Single Malt Whiskey is distilled on the Isle of Skye and has a creamy texture with a subtle sweet smokey taste with notes of chocolate and a pinch of black pepper. Talisker 8 is remarkably smooth for a whisky, with an alcohol content of 58% ABV.
Lagavulin is an incredibly well-balanced malt with heavy smokey notes and a rich caramel sweetness and is bottled at 48% ABV.
How to Drink Laphroaig Whisky
The glass from which you drink Laphroaig whisky can vary depending on personal taste. However, the tumbler is a favorite due to its practicality.
To fully experience the various notes of your whiskey, a glass with a tulip shape or tapered neck and bulb-shaped body are recommended.
Most connoisseurs prefer to drink their whiskey straight; however, if the taste is too intense, adding a little water is a great way to ease into the strong taste. A block or two of ice can also be added.
Why do people like Laphroaig?
Laphroaig has a strong aroma with intense peat levels that lend to a distinct, almost medicinal flavor profile. It is one of the most loved or hated whiskeys in the world, and for those who can appreciate it, it is utterly heavenly to sip.
How is Laphroaig pronounced?
This video will explain how to pronounce Laphroaig.
What does Laphroaig mean in English?
The Gaelic name Laphroaig means ‘the beautiful hollow by the broad bay.