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Lagavulin Distillery | Offerman Approved

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Two and a half miles past the town of Port Ellen, nestled in the stony heather-covered hills, you'll discover one of Islay's oldest distillation sites, the picturesque Lagavulin Distillery. Situated on the shores of Lagavulin Bay, and the middle child of Islay's south-side-of-the-island trio, Lagavulin Distillery is a 15-20 min walk (1.2mi) past Laphroaig and a further 15-20 min walk (1.2mi) from Ardbeg.

autumn toned photograph of Lagavulin distillery viewed from Dunyvaig Castle

Lagavulin whisky distillery, Isle of Islay, Scotland viewed from Dunyvaig Castle. Soft autumn-toned photograph.

How to Pronounce Lagavulin

How to pronounce Lagavulin, courtesy of Brian Cox ...

Lagavulin Whisky

While generally not as iodine-intense as its neighbouring distilleries Laphroaig and Ardbeg, the flavours of Lagavulin Whisky still pack a punch on the palate. "It's like drinking a campfire," says Nick Offerman when describing the Lagavulin 16. The smooth, rich smokiness of a Lagavulin whisky is likened to 'a depth charge' by Brian Cox, and is considered "mothers milk" by some (myself included).

Photograph of lagavulin 16 whisky bottle

Per David Broom for Whisky Advocate "Lagavulin is a classic example of how smoke isn't a blunt instrument that covers everything in a fog, but an element that works with all the flavours produced in distillation and maturation." Lagavulin 16 is a dram I consider a 'gateway whisky' for those who are new to peat - it's sweet, rich and warming. The peat is more reminiscent of an open fire on a cold day than a smoke filled kick to the head; it lacks the raw medicinal qualities of nearby Ardbeg and Laphroaig. Lagavulin 16 pairs exceptionally well with caramel or chocolate desserts, and it is definitely one of my go-to drams.

Purple toned black and white photograph of the tasting room and library at Lagavulin Distillery.

Lagavulin Whisky at Lagavulin Distillery. From Left to Right, bottles and boxes of: Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin Distillers Edition, Lagavulin 12 and Lagavulin 8.

Ron Swanson / Nick Offerman & Lagavulin Whisky

Whether you're a fan of the TV programme 'Parks and Recreation' or not, if you're a fan of Lagavulin, there's a good chance you've seen Nick Offerman (or his Park's character Ron Swanson) espousing his joy for Lagavulin whisky. Diageo paired up with Nick for a series of on-brand/on-character promotions for Lagavulin that showcase the distillery and the whisky beautifully. My favourite is "Yule Log", a 45-minute video of Nick Offerman sitting in a cosy leather armchair, occasionally taking a sip of Lagavulin as the fire crackles beside him. It's not exactly edge of your seat entertainment, but I love its simplicity. It would make an excellent screen saver. If you'd like to see the key highlights rather than watch the full 45 minutes, there's a play by play in the first comment on youtube.

The series includes some excellent footage of Lagavulin Distillery, such as in the episode 'Message in a Bottle' (one method of acquiring Lagavulin Whisky).

Where is Lagavulin Distillery?

Lagavulin Distillery is located in the wee village of Lagavulin (it pretty much IS the village of Lagavulin), on the beautiful Isle of Islay, 2.6 miles from the Port Ellen Ferry Terminal.

black and gold map of islay distilleries above a king size bed with black sheets and white and gold pillows

Posters and Fine Art Prints of Islay Whisky Maps | Made By Whisky Lovers For Whisky Lovers

Lagavulin Distillery Tours, Pricing & Bookings

Due to COVID-19, Lagavulin have adapted their tour booking procedures and will review each booking request in line with government guidance and capacities before confirming your booking. Online advanced bookings are essential. After you make a booking enquiry you will receive an email to confirm that Lagavulin have received your request, and then you'll receive a second follow-up email once your booking has been confirmed or amended. Bookings can be made via the Lagavulin website https://www.malts.com/en-au/distilleries/lagavulin/tours

Lagavulin Classic Tour

£22 - 60 mins - a guided tour of Lagavulin Distillery, and a three-dram tutored tasting (including a sample of a distillery exclusive bottling). Includes a Lagavulin branded glass for you to take home. Click here for more information or to book the Lagavulin Classic Tour.

Lagavulin Tasting Experience

£17 - 60 mins - tutored tasting of four whiskies including a distillery exclusive bottling. Click here for more information or to book the Lagavulin Tasting Experience.

Lagavuling Distillery Exclusive Tasting

£90 - 90 mins - an elevated whisky experience. Tasting of five Lagavulin Distillery exclusive whiskies, including one single cask sample, and you will get to take home your own hand-filled 200 ml bottle of single cask Lagavulin. Click here for more information or to book the Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive Tasting.

Warehouse Experience (Weekdays Only)

£38 - 60 mins - join Lain McArthur (resident warehouseman and Lagavulin legend) or one of Lagavulin's equally talented guides for a fantastic tasting session straight from the cask. Click here for more information or to book the Lagavulin Warehouse Experience

Cask Strength Tasting (Saturday and Sunday Only)

£32 - 60 mins - relax in the Mackie Tasting Room and sample three Lagavulin single cask expressions and two distillery exclusive bottlings. This tasting focuses on the maturation of our great spirit as well as exploring the history and heritage of Lagavulin. Click here for more information or to book the Lagavulin Cask Strength Tasting.

Lagavulin Distillery Images

sepia toned photograph of the visitor entrance to Lagavulin Distillery showing the pagoda roof of the old kiln

Lagavulin Distillery, Islay, Scotland. Golden toned black and white photograph.

purple toned photograph of Lagavulin merchandise in the Lagavulin visitor centre shop

Purple toned photograph of the Lagavulin Visitor Centre Branded Merchandise/Gift Room

the bright red portus patent mill at lagavulin distillery

Lagavulin's Porteus Patent Malt Mill, Machine No. MM-RB-15, Date: 16-3-1963. Maintained by Ronnie Lee

Close up of Lagavulin's Porteus Patent Malt Mill's ID plate showing Machine No. MM-RB-15, Date: 16-3-1963. Maintained by Ronnie Lee

Lagavulin's Porteus Patent Malt Mill, Machine No. MM-RB-15, Date: 16-3-1963. Maintained by Ronnie Lee

purpole toned photograph of the stainless steel mash tun at Lagavulin distillery

Purple toned photograph of the Lagavulin Distillery Mash Tun

close up view inside the mash tun at Lagavulin distillery showing the stirring arm and mash

Malted barley, ground into grist, then add to hot water in the Mash Tun at Lagavulin Distillery.

foreground is close up of top of washback at Lagavulin distillery and rear shows the other 5 timber washbacks, with pipes running overhead

Six of the ten washbacks at Lagavulin Distillery, Islay, Scotland. Soft colour photograph.

golden toned image of the six washbacks at lagavulin distillery

Six of the ten washbacks at Lagavulin Distillery, Islay, Scotland. Golden toned soft colour photograph.

black and white photograph of the pear shaped wash stills at Lagavulin distillery

Lagavulin Distillery Wash Stills. They measure almost 7m in height. 10,800 litres of wort/wash is used to charge each wash stills per cycle. The charge for the wash stills less than that for the spirit stills (typically it's the other way around).

close up of wash stills at Lagavulin distillery

Lagavulin Distillery's Pear-Shaped Wash Stills. They measure almost 7m in height. 10,800 litres of wort/wash is used to charge each wash stills per cycle. The charge for the wash stills less than that for the spirit stills (typically it's the other way around)

pair of wash stills at lagavulin distillery

Lagavulin Distillery Wash Stills. They measure almost 7m in height. 10,800 litres of wort/wash is used to charge each wash stills per cycle. The charge for the wash stills less than that for the spirit stills (typically it's the other way around).

two pear shaped spirit stills on right at Lagavulin distillery - wash stills just visible on the left

The pear shaped spirit stills at Lagavulin Distillery

close up of the number 2 spirits and feints bowl at Lagavulin distillery with spirit flowing into the bowl

Lagavulin Distillery No. 2 Spirits and Feints Bowl.

close up of the number 1 spirits and feints bowl at Lagavulin distillery with spirit flowing into the bowl

Lagavulin Distillery No. 1 Spirits and Feints Bowl.

close up of both of the low wines wash bowls with spirit pouring into them at Lagavulin Distillery

The Lagavulin Spirit Safe Low Wines/Wash Still Bowls.

Sepia toned black and white photograph of Lagavulin Distillery, Islay, Scotland. photograph which shows the front of the distillery, the Lagavulin sign and the post box.

Sepia toned black and white photograph of Lagavulin Distillery, Islay, Scotland. photograph which shows the front of the distillery, the Lagavulin sign and the post box.

What Else Is Nearby

Accommodation

There are a small number of hotel options near Lagavulin, specifically in Port Ellen, one of the main towns on Islay, though you'll find the broadest accommodation selection via Airbnb. Port Ellen is easy to get around on foot, and there are several restaurants and cafes. There is also a supermarket and a post office, which makes it a convenient location for families or those reliant on public transport. Lagavulin Distillery is 2.6 miles/4.2 km from Port Ellen, and there is a wide asphalted footpath, should you wish to walk or cycle to the distillery.

Right on the shoreline, No. 1 Charlotte St is centrally located in Port Ellen for dining out, picking up a few things at the Co-op, catching the ferry, or walking to all three of the Port Ellen distilleries (Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig). Rooms have private bathrooms.

The Machrie Hotel is an 18th century converted farmhouse that sits in the middle of a golf course, alongside 7 miles of pristine beach. The Machrie is a short drive from Port Ellen and has 47 stylish rooms to choose from, many with stunning views across the fairway towards the ocean.

References & Further Reading

picture of the front cover of book The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard

One of Amanda's favourite books. Around 1885, Alfred Barnard was secretary of Harper's Weekly Gazette, a journal dedicated to the wine and spirit trade. In order to provide his readers with the history and descriptions of the whisky-making process, Barnard decided to visit all distilleries in Scotland, England and Ireland. Accompanied by friends, he visited and sketched over 150 distilleries. This is a wonderful step back in time and a must have book for a whisky history geek. 

Front cover image of the book Whiskies Galore : A Tour of Scotland's Island Distilleries by Ian Buxton

Whiskies Galore is not your average whisky book. It is not simply a catalogue of distilleries, but a story of discovery and adventure. Join Ian Buxton on a personal journey across Scotland's islands, combining his expert knowledge of whisky with his fondness for anecdote, as he provides a special treat for all who love Scotland's islands and their drams.

Book cover of Whisky Island by Andrew Jefford

In Whisky Island, by Andrew Jefford, Islay's fascinating story is uncovered: from its history and stories of the many shipwrecks which litter its shores, to the beautiful wildlife, landscape and topography of the island revealed through intimate descriptions of the austerely beautiful and remote countryside. Interleaved through these different narrative strands comes the story of the whiskies themselves, traced from a distant past of bothies and illegal stills to present-day legality and prosperity. The flavour of each spirit is analysed and the differences between them teased out, as are the stories of the notable men and women who have played such a integral part in their creation.

Cover image of the book The Island Whisky Trail: Scotland's Hebridean and West Coast Malt Whisky Distilleries by Neil Wilson

Island Whisky Trail by Neil Wilson, features Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Jura, Mull, Talisker and Oban. There is also a thorough look at the major role that women played in the history of illicit distilling in the County of Argyll with maps of known sites of distilling and appendices of the distillers and where and when they lived. I found it to be a very informative read.

About the author

Amanda

Amanda is an Australian-born photographer, digital nomad and whisky lover. Her passion for travel and whisky lead her to Islay, where she fell in love with an Ileach (an Islay native). Amanda and Roddy now share their Spirited Adventures.

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