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.
How to Pronounce Lagavulin
How to pronounce Lagavulin, courtesy of Brian Cox ...
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).
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.
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.
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
What Else Is Nearby
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
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.
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.
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.
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.