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Founded on Islay’s south [Kildalton] coast and situated between Ardbeg and Laphroaig, legal distilling was started at Lagavulin in 1816 by John Johnston. A second distillery shared the site which was first bought by the same family in 1825, before production was absorbed into Lagavulin in 1837.
It came to wider public awareness in 1862 when blender John Logan Mackie bought the distillery. His nephew Peter J. Mackie made the first of many trips to Islay in 1878 to learn the secrets of distilling and eventually take over production of Lagavulin. Sir Peter Mackie, as he became, was one of the pre-eminent figures of late 19th century whisky. He created the White Horse blend in 1890, co-founded Craigellachie distillery and was noted as a great innovator.
In 1908, irritated by the loss of the agency for Laphroaig, Mackie built a replica distillery at Lagavulin which he called Malt Mill. It ran until 1962 and though it was set up to produce the same character as Laphroaig – which is only two miles away – it never did. Neither did it make Lagavulin. A (fictitious) cask of Malt Mill played a central role in film director Ken Loach’s comedy The Angel’s Share.
The distillery floor maltings shut in 1974. They now form the visitor’s centre and admin offices.