Laphroaig Distillery is beautifully situated in the south of Islay and is one of the three "Kildalton Distilleries". The Gaelic name means "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay". Laphroaig is considered one of the most strongly flavored of all scotch whiskies, and is generally aged to 10 years. The 18 year old variety is also very popular as well as the Quarter Cask (matured in small casks often used in the 19th century). Laphroaig Distillery was established in 1815, by Alex and Donald Johnston. The 'Johnston' brothers were actually McCabes, of the Clan Donald, who changed their names following the failed Jacobite uprising, and settled on the Isle of Islay.
In 1836 James and Andrew Gairdner set about building a rival distillery next to Laphroaig. They installed two experienced Clackmann distillers, James and Andrew Stein, to take charge. Donald Johnston, owner of Laphroaig at the time, was deeply disturbed finding out that the new, Ardenistiel distillery, proposed to use the same watersource. Water that made a vital contribution to Laphroaig's unique character. Specially when Donald was about to expand his business leaving him with a too small water supply. The dispute lasted almost 6 years and ended abruptly when Andrew Stein fell ill with fever and died soon afterwards. His brother James stopped distilling and moved to Port Ellen. In June the following year Donald himself died in a tragic accident at the Laphroaig distillery.
The descendants of the Johnston Brothers ran the distillery until 1887, when it was passed to the Hunter family. They in turn ran the distillery until 1954, when Ian Hunter (who had no children) died and left the distilley to one of his managers, Bessie Williamson, who earlier came to Islay to stay for three months but remained on Islay for more than fourty years.
The distillery was sold to Long John International in the 1960's, and subsequently became part of Allied Domecq. Allied Domecq was in turn acquired by Fortune Brands in 2005. In 2011 Fortune Brands split up their business product lines and the spirit business was carried over to Beam Inc.
Since 1994 Laphroaig has been the only whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of HRH, Prince Charles of Wales (the 15-year-old is reportedly his favourite scotch whisky), which was awarded in person during a visit to the distillery.
Friends of Laphroaig
In 1994 the Friends of Laphroaig Club was established, members of which are granted a lifetime lease of one square foot (<0.1 m²) of land on the island of Islay. The annual rent is a dram of Laphroaig which can be obtained upon visiting the distillery where you can also visit your plot of land. In spring 2013 there were already more than 600,000 friends of Laphroaig worldwide.