Proprietors: D. Johnston & Co.
Before starting for Bridgend, our next destination, we paid a brief visit to the Distillery which heads this chapter. It is one mile distant from Port Ellen and situated on the road traversed the day before, and, like Lagavulin, is built on the margin of the sea. At a distance the establishment looked like a cluster of ruins, but on nearer inspection we found it to be a Distillery of a very old-fashioned type, and consisting of two ranges of low buildings standing at the edge of the little bar from whence it takes its name, and sheltered by huge rocks which project into the water. The sea view embraces a wide expanse of ocean, the Island of Gigha, and the Kintyre Coast. A pretty little burn, which rises in the hills, runs brawling over stalles and bits of rock through the property and then falls into the sea. The water of this burn is of excellent quality, and is used in the Distillery.
The Islay people are very hospitable. We had lunched at Ardbeg the day before, and at Laphroaig Mr. Johnston would not let us commence out labours until we had partaken of his hospitality.
This Distillery was built in the year 1820, and covers one and a half acres of ground. It comprises a large Barley-barn and Maltings, a Kiln, Mash House, Tun Room, Still House, and two Warehouses, all similar to Lagavulin, only on a smaller scale. In the Still House there are two old Pot Stills, Safe, two Receivers, Chargers, &c. There is also a small cooperage, good stables, cart sheds, and manager's house on the premises.
Peat only is used in the drying, and the Whisky is pure Islay Malt, the annual output being 23,000 gallons, all of which has for the last sixty years been supplied and sold by Messrs. Mackie & Co., of Glasgow. We cannot forbear a brief allusion to the fact that all the Distilleries in Islay are built on the sea coast, but the Distillers maintain that the sea air has no effect whatever on the Whisky, and that the peculiarity of the Islay make arises principally from the flavour of the peat, dug in the island, and which is more strongly impregnated with moss than same other districts.
The Whisky made at Laphroaig is of exceptional character, being largely sought after for blending purposes, and is a thick and pungent spirit of a peculiar peat reek" flavour. The small output renders it of high value in the market; and although the Distillery is of small dimensions, the proprietors would not attempt to disturb the present arrangements, as thereby the character of the Whisky might be entirely lost. The distilling of Whisky is greatly aided by circumstances that cannot be accounted for, and even the most experienced distillers are unable to change its character, which is largely influenced by accidents of locality, water, and position. No better instance of this can be given than the case of the Lagavulin and Laphroaig Distilleries, which, although situated within a short distance of one another, each produce Whisky of a distinct and varied type.