Updated 12 August 2022

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Laphroaig Distillery | Opinions Welcome

Laphroaig Distillery is one of few distilleries in Scotland who still malt some of their barley on site, and even rarer again, they continue to hand cut their own peat. 

Laphroaig is also the only whisky distillery awarded a Royal Warrant by Prince Charles, issued during his first visit to the distillery in 1994. He followed up with a repeat visit in 2008 as part of his 60th birthday celebrations.  

You'll find Laphroaig Distillery nestled in woodland, 1.8 miles from Port Ellen, the first of three distilleries on Islay's south east-coast line (the other two being Lagavulin and Ardbeg) it is well worth a tour if you're visiting Islay.

Laphroaig Whisky Distillery, Islay, Scotland. Photograph available as Fine Art Print or Poster.

How Do You Pronounce Laphroaig?

How to pronounce Laphroaig (/ləˈfrɔɪɡ/ lə-FROYG) courtesy of Brian Cox ...

Laphroaig Whisky

Laphroaig (and Ardbeg) can be quite polarising, even for peat freaks. Laphroaig have skillfully utilised the love/hate relationship people tend to have with their whisky in a campaign that goes by the tag "Opinions Welcome" (#OpinionsWelcome).

photograph of laphroaig 'opinions welcome' campaign wall tileswall mounted outside the distillery. Tiles contain comments sent in by Laphroaig fans describing the taste of Laphroaig. For example 'peat stove's ashtray' and 'a greek wrestler's jockstrap'

Wall tiles at the Laphroaig Distillery entrance, printed with the many and varied opinions of Laphroaig: "Burnt Tyres" | "Like Licking A Peat Stove's Ashtray" | "Unapologetically Impolite, Undeniably Luscious"

My family have prohibited me from opening Laphroaig 10 in the house - the vapours seem to encroach upon their personal space, and they strongly disapprove of it! Laphroaig was the first Scotch single malt I ever tried, and I almost didn't try another single malt whisky after that.

Laphroaig vs Lagavulin

The taste of whisky is very personal - what is mother's milk to one person might be bile to another, and this is probably the best way to preface the difference between Laphroaig 10 yo  and Lagavulin 16. Lagavulin 16 doesn't have quite the same kick to the head that you'll get with Laphroaig 10. Both whiskies are peated, originate from the same side of the Islay (the distilleries are neighbours), and both are chillfiltered and have spirit caramel/colour added. Bottled at 43% abv, Lagavulin 16 has a slightly higher abv than Laphroaig 10 at 40% abv. Lagavulin 16 has also had a further six years to mature and 'soften' and lacks the raw medicinal ashtray/burning tyres you often get with Laphroaig. 

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Ralfy has reviewed Laphroaig 10 more than most other bottlings - 5 times in 8 years (see reviews 30, 272, 501 and 575 in addition to 686 below) - partly because he considers it a benchmark peated single malt whisky, but also because of the changes to peat intensity over time. The variation can partly be attributed to the evolution of his palate, but is mostly due to factors such as yield from the malted barley grains ("which distillers are ever trying to increase") as well as the age of the whisky relative to the quality of the casks used in the maturation process (first fill vs refill).

He notes that "the prominent feature of Laphroaig is a seashore coastal mineral note, hard to pin down as it's not a specific flavour - it's part of a range of flavour sensations like sweet, sour, salt, bitter and savoury/umami. This umami/savoury sensation is really quite discernible/prominent in Laphroaig; it's one of its main feature characteristics ... particularly at a young age."

In 2017 he described the Laphroaig 10 as having a "raw, vegetal, twiggy, smoke-infused peaty-ness" with "old sultanas that have been in the jar for quite a while".

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Photograph of Laphroaig 10YO whisky

"Seashore coastal mineral ... raw, vegetal, twiggy, smoke-infused peaty-ness ... old sultanas that have been in the jar for quite a while". - Ralfy, Review 686 (Laphroaig 10, 2017 release)

Where is Laphroaig Distillery?

Laphroaig is the first of three distilleries (Lagavulin and Ardbeg being the other two) on Islay's south-east coastline. It's a short drive (1.8 miles) or a 30-40 min walk from Port Ellen.

google map screen shot of laphroaig distillery's location on the isle of islay
wood panelled bar room, dark timber, islay distillery map on wall in corner

Islay Maps and Photographic Prints

Whisky Gifts, Wall Art and Man Cave Decor. Made By Whisky Lovers For Whisky Lovers

Laphroaig Distillery Tours, Pricing & Bookings

Experience Tour and Tasting

Guided tour of Laphroaig Distillery, and a tutored tasting of three (3) Laphroaig whiskies, plus a souvenier tasting glass and lanyard to take home at the end of your tour. £15.00 per person, approximately 90 minutes duration. Online bookings highly recommended - maximum 12 persons per tour

Distiller's Wares Tour and Tasting

Extensive guided tour of Laphroaig Distillery, and a tutored tasting of several Laphroaig whiskies straight from the cask, then pick your favourite and handfill a 250ml bottle to take home. Maximum 4 persons per session, £75.00 per person, approximately 2.5 hours duration. Online bookings essential.

Warehouse 1 Tasting

Tasting Only: sample 3 Laphroaig whiskies straight from the cask inside Warehouse 1. Once you've explored the flavours and character of all three, pick your favourite and handfill a 250ml bottle to take home. Maximum 4 persons per tasting, £60.00 per person, approximately 90 minutes duration. Online bookings essential.

Uisge - A Day With Laphroaig

The ultimate experience for a Laphroaig Whisky Fan : start your journey with an extensive tour through the full production of the distillery beginning with the malting floors.Gather your picnic lunch and walking boots and hike out to explore the surrounding landscape, visiting the Kilbride water source, an essential element in making Laphroaig. Appreciate the view from this beautiful setting while you enjoy your delicious lunch. Hike back to the distillery to sample a selection of handpicked single casks in Warehouse No.1, pick your favourite and hand bottle it to take home. Maximum 6 persons per session, £130.00 per person, approximately 4.5 hours duration. Online bookings essential.

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photograph of a woman exiting a Rabbies Tours mini bus

If it all seems to hard to organise, why not sign up to a Rabbie's organised tour, and let them take care of all the planning (and the driving!) for you? This tour departs Edinburgh and spends 2 days on Islay, which gets you to Bruichladdich or Bunnahabhain (depending on the day you travel), Kilchoman, Ardnahoe, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.

Entrance to the Laphroaig Visitor Centre (Warehouse 1 is on the left)

black and white wide angle photograph showing laphroaig distillery with pagodo roof, multi level malt floor windows

Laphroaig whisky distillery, Isle of Islay, Scotland. Photograph available as Fine Art Print or Poster.

Laphroaig Distillery Images

full colour hdr photograph of laphroaig distillery warehouse 1, jetty and shoreline in the foreground and a bright blue sky overhead

Warehouse 1, Laphroaig Whisky Distillery, Islay, Scotland. Photograph available as Fine Art Print or Poster.

bubbles belch out from a mass of steeping barley at laphroaig distillery

Laphroaig steep their barley for three days, with three separtae lots of water changed daily

a pile of drained barley in the steep

Barley grains are soaked in water for three days. The water is drained and replaced three times a day.

small shoots are visible in the close up photograph of malting barley on the malt floor at laphroaig distillery

Tiny little shoots are visible in the germinating barley on the Laphroaig Malt Floor

close up photograph of malt conveyor at laphroaig distillery

One of the conveyors used to drive the malt through the distillery.

close up of the stainless steel lauter tun at laphroaig distillery. LAUTER TUN letters are visible on the side of the tun near the viewing hatch.

Lauter Mash Tun at Laphroaig Distillery, Islay, Scotland

view through the wide grate of laphroaig's lauter tun viewing hatch showing the stirring arm and an empty tun

Inside Laphroaig's Lauter Mash Tun

two stills close up and wide bottomed at laphroaig distillery - spirit wash stains are visible running out of the hatch on spirit still number 2 on the left.

The beautiful fat bottoms of spirit stills no. 1 and no. 2 at Laphroaig, with the condenser of no. 1 in the middle background. Photograph available as Fine Art Print or Poster.

six of laphroaig's stills are visible along with their condensers

The spirit and wash stills (minus no.1 spirit still) at Laphroaig Distillery. Photograph available as Fine Art Print or Poster.

three of laphroaig distilleries spirit stills in a row with spirit safe to the rear left of photograph. distribution pipes are also visible in the ceiling.

Three of the four spirit stills at Laphroaig Distillery, and the Spirit Safe on the right.

close up of number one spirits still at laphroaig distillery and the other six stills leading off into the background

The full complement of spirit and wash stills at Laphroaig Distillery

 centre of image shows prominent square shaped pipe leading into the glass bowl of the low wines receiver

The low wines receiver bowl from Wash Still No. 1 in the Low Wines safe at Laphroaig Distillery. Black and white photograph

The low wines receiver bowl from Wash Still No. 2, in the spirit safe at Laphroaig Distillery.

The three low wines receiver bowls, from the three Wash Stills, at Laphroaig Distillery

Thermometers in the Low Wines Safe at Laphroaig Distillery for Wash Stills 1 and 2. The Stillman can determine the concentration of alcohol in liquid passing through using a combination of the liquid's temperature and its density (measured with a hydrometer, not pictured). The Wash Stills at Laphroiag run for roughly 5.5 hours, producing low wines at ~35%.

Valve Knobs for the No. 3 Wash Still on the Laphroaig Distillery Spirit Safe.

Thermometer close up in the Spirit Safe at Laphroaig Distillery. The Stillman can determine the concentration of alcohol in liquid passing through the spirit safe using a combination of the liquid's temperature and its density (measured with a hydrometer, not pictured). Full colour photograph

Other Distilleries Near Laphroaig

There are presently nine distilleries on Islay, so you have another eight to visit should you wish to! Ardbeg and Lagavulin are the closest and within walking distance of Laphroaig, and Bowmore is a short drive or bus trip away. Caol Ila, Ardnahoe and Bunnahabhain are near Port Askaig and a good group of distilleries to visit together (and you get some stunning views of Jura - or even catch the ferry across the sound and visit Jura Distillery). Bruichladdich and Kilchoman also make an excellent pair.

Where To Stay Near Laphroaig Distillery

There are a small number of hotel options near Laphroaig, 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. Laphroaig Distillery is 1.8 miles/2.9 km from Port Ellen, and there is a wide asphalted footpath, should you wish to walk or cycle to the distillery.

timber panelled exterior cabin, glass door opens to single clean tidy room with double bed and port hole window looking towards the bay

Located opposite Laphroaig Distillery, the Isle Adilla is a small single room pod-style cabin located on the grounds of Laphroaig's Old Excise House. About as close as you can stay to the distillery, it is right on the water and a short walk from Port Ellen. This is not an affiliate link.

Distance photo of number 1 charlotte st port ellen islayacross the water

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.

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photograph of bedroom interior at Machrie Hotel near Port Ellen Islay Scotland

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 (towards Bowmore) and has 47 stylish rooms to choose from, many with stunning views across the fairway towards the ocean.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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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