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Another of the Kildalton triumvirate, Laphroaig is a substantial distillery with seven stills and a capacity of over 3m litres per annum (that’s 1m more than Lagavulin and 2m more than Ardbeg).
Unusually for a distillery of this size Laphroaig has retained its own floor maltings which still account for 20% of its requirements. They have been retained specifically because it is believed that the Laphroaig kiln produces a more creosote-like phenolic character than the malt the distillery receives from the Port Ellen maltings. Certainly, a tarry iodine note is one of the signatures of the spirit.
The odd number of stills includes a spirit still which is double the size of its neighbours. As this produces a different character new make it is always blended in with those from the smaller ones.
A very long fore shot run means there are less estery notes in the new make, while a deeper cut means that heavier phenolics are captured compared to Ardbeg and Lagavulin. Its distinct sweet note therefore comes from the preferred cask type used – ex-Bourbon barrels. These, the distillery says, became the norm at Laphroaig post-Prohibition when Ian Hunter began travelling to the US. The effect of this type of oak is showcased in the Quarter Cask release where a vatting of younger Laphroaigs is finished in small casks. Some Sherry casks are in the inventory and are mostly used for longer-term maturation.