I’d originally planned to write one large post on my visit to Laphroaig, covering both the Distillers Wares tour that was the focus of my visit and a more general look at the distillery grounds and visitor centre (as in my write-ups of my visits to Talisker, Lagavulin, Tomatin and Oban). However, I have so many pictures from Laphroaig and—as it’s my favourite distillery—it is very hard for me to not post a large number of them. As such, a single post would become too overwhelming (both for me to format and for you to read). Accordingly, here first is a look at the distillery more generally; I’ll go over the Distillers Wares experience on Friday.
Laphroaig is the first of the distilleries to appear as you drive east from the town of Port Ellen. Well, unlike Lagavulin, it doesn’t quite appear on the side of the road—you have to turn right and go down a bit to get to their grounds and as it’s all very wooded you can’t quite see the distillery from the main road. It is for this reason that I was able to pass it without stopping on my way to Lagavulin on our first full day on Islay. As much as I like Lagavulin, Laphroaig is very much my favourite distillery and I felt an excitement upon passing the sign for the distillery on day 1 that only intensified when I finally got there on day 2. I am glad to report that my experience of the distillery and the tour did not in any way disappoint.
It is not a tiny distillery—the grounds are quite extensive and if you park a car you’ll have a long’ish walk to get to the visitor centre. We did park—the missus and the kids went off into the woods by the distillery for a walk (and had a great time)—and I did the long’ish walk, stopping to photograph every third whitewashed brick or so (speaking of which, I wonder how much these distilleries spend each year on whitewash and on-brand paint). You emerge between the No. 1 warehouse (more on this on Friday) and the visitor centre, both situated, as is most of the distillery, right by the bay that gives the distillery its name (Laphroaig means “hollow by the bay” in Gaelic). The production buildings are behind the visitor centre and opportunities abound to take pictures of whitewashed buildings and pagoda roofs from various directions.
The visitor centre is expansive, incorporating a large shop (selling whisky, knick-knacks, clothes etc.) and both an extended lounge and a museum of sorts. I pottered around the “museum” as I waited for the tour to start and it’s quite well done. In place of the cheesy myth-making of Talisker what you get here is a good potted history of the distillery and key figures in its story. There is also the requisite displaying of awards and peat and barley and the tools used to work them in the distillery. There’s a room off to the side dedicated to the “Friends of Laphroaig” and if you’ve ever registered the plot of land each bottle purchase of official Laphroaig entitles you to, you can find out where your plot is (in the field on the other side of the main road where you turn off for the distillery), borrow a pair of wellingtons and go off to find it. Though at this point I probably own a few acres of land at Laphroaig I did not go to stake my claim.
Well, details on the tour and warehouse visit will have to wait till Friday. Until then, if you’ve never been to Laphroaig you may enjoy this first gallery of images. Launch the captioned slideshow to “walk through” a part of the distillery.
That’s it for today. Come back on Friday for the ins and outs of the Distillers Wares experience. And come back tomorrow for a report on some meals in the highlands on the early days of our trip.