|White Horse Distillers
Lagavulin 12 Years Old White Horse Distillers: A Timeless Gem from Islay's Finest
Nestled in the charming village of Lagavulin on the southern coast of Scotland's Islay, the Lagavulin Distillery holds a remarkable legacy dating back to the early 19th century. Its Gaelic name, "Lag a' Mhuilinn," meaning "hollow of the mill," perfectly reflects its idyllic location near Dunyvaig Castle's ruins and an old water mill. As a distinguished producer of Islay single malt Scotch whisky, Lagavulin has earned a special place in the hearts of whisky enthusiasts across the globe.
The distillery's origins can be traced to 1816 when John Johnston and Archibald Campbell Brooks established two distilleries on the site. One of these would eventually become the renowned Lagavulin, although historical records haven't conclusively identified which one. Nevertheless, signs of illicit distillation in numerous illegal stills at the location date back to as early as 1742, hinting at a long-standing tradition of whisky-making.
In 1835, John Johnston handed over the reins of the distillery to Alexander Graham, who later appointed his son, Walter Graham, as the distiller. Walter managed Lagavulin until 1848 when he departed for Laphroaig, another esteemed Islay distillery. Presumably, Walter's brother, John Crawford Graham, took charge of Lagavulin thereafter.
The distillery underwent several transformations, including expansions and improvements, culminating in a partnership between John Crawford Graham and James Logan Mackie in the mid-1880s. This collaboration led to the establishment of Mackie & Co., which marketed Lagavulin and other whiskies in London and beyond. During this period, Lagavulin became embroiled in legal disputes with its neighbor, Laphroaig, due to perceived stylistic similarities.
In 1895, Mackie & Co. evolved into a limited company, and the legendary White Horse brand was born, incorporating whisky from Lagavulin. White Horse whisky swiftly gained renown for its exceptional quality and garnered numerous prestigious awards. So impressive was its reputation that in 1908, Mackie & Co. received the distinguished honor of a Royal Warrant Appointment as purveyors of White Horse whisky to King Edward VII.
In the early 1920s, Lagavulin experienced a significant change in ownership, passing from Iain Ramsay to Peter Mackie for £16,000. Subsequently, in 1923, Buchanan Dewar Ltd acquired the distillery, continuing the success of the White Horse brand. Over time, Buchanan Dewar Ltd became part of the Guinness family in 1986, which eventually merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo in 1997, the current owner of Lagavulin.
Lagavulin's distinctive and rich character can be attributed, in part, to its traditional distillation process. The distillery employs slow distillation and utilizes pear-shaped pot stills, allowing for a more intricate and flavorful spirit. Its two wash stills boast a capacity of 11,000 liters each, while the two spirit stills can hold 12,500 liters apiece.
The Lagavulin 12 Years Old White Horse Distillers, bottled in the early eighties by White Horse Distillers Ltd. before Diageo's ownership, remains a treasured testament to the distillery's legacy and craftsmanship. This 12-year-old expression, bottled at 43% ABV, encapsulates Lagavulin's signature peaty and maritime characteristics, making it a beloved choice among whisky enthusiasts.
While no longer part of the Classic Malts range, Lagavulin's 16-year-old expression continues to be a perennial favorite. Additionally, the distillery regularly releases a 12-year-old cask strength version and various older and rarer expressions, ensuring there is always something special to discover for whisky enthusiasts.
In conclusion, Lagavulin's journey from its humble beginnings to global acclaim stands as a testament to the passion and dedication of those involved in crafting this exceptional whisky. The Lagavulin 12 Years Old White Horse Distillers, with its deeply-rooted history, complex flavors, and unmistakable Islay character, continues to captivate whisky lovers, solidifying Lagavulin's position as one of Scotland's finest distilleries. Each sip of Lagavulin whisky transports enthusiasts to the rugged and enchanting landscape of Islay, where tradition and craftsmanship converge to create a timeless gem cherished by whisky connoisseurs around the world.
Another go at this excellent Lagavulin that I like a lot, even if I liked the first 16yo’s even better. Interesting comments on the label: ‘Lapped by the warming Gulf Stream, the Atlantic rain washes through the peat producing soft pure water that gives Lagavulin its special taste.’ So it was all about water…
Please note that Lagavulin probably still had its own floor maltings when this was distilled, the maltings having been closed in 1972. Colour: amber. Nose: big and bold, meaty and almost fat, starting on quite some sherry mixed with oxtail and seashells (queen scallops). Then we have parsley and lots of mint (mint jelly) before it switches to strawberries and pears cooked in red wine. Excellent signature on camphor and embrocations, with maybe just a little cardboard and oiled paper as well as a beautiful oakiness (and notes of cedar wood). Keywords: mint and meat bouillon. Mouth: starts very resinous, quite peaty and very dry, on cocoa and something like mastic-flavoured tea (if that existed). Quite some bitter chocolate, lots of liquorice, woodiness, ginger, orange marmalade, cinchona… Grows bolder by the minute, thick, coating… Quite some tannins and something nicely green and bitter (propolis, green tea). The finish is very long, peppery and nicely bitter, with also a little quince jelly and bitter oranges. Very excellent, even if, again, maybe not as great as the 16yo’s, including the recent ones once they’ll have aged a bit in their bottles ;-).