The destiny of Laphroaig and Islay are inextricably linked.
The isle of Islay is a windswept juxtaposition of rock, peat
and heather, cast adrift from the Scottish mainland to the
East. The unique character of Laphroaig® has never been
duplicated, even by the distillery’s closest neighbours,
but is partly derived from the distillery’s location
on the spray soaked coast, as well as the peat which flavours
the water and smokes the barley.
Where bracing waves and stinging spray reign supreme you
will find Warehouse No. 1, the oldest of its type at Laphroaig.
The building has an ash floor, which, combined with its exposed
position on the rocky shore, creates a cool, damp, temperate
atmosphere. These ancient, wave battered walls protected the
distillery’s oldest whisky, Laphroaig® 40 Year Old
Photo by Michael Castello
Laphroaig® 40 Year Old
During its four decade sleep, each of the European oak casks,
in which this unique example of Laphroaig® has matured,
will have lost over half of the original contents of whisky
to the Islay atmosphere through evaporation. Known as the
“angels’ share” this naturally occurring
process has allowed the salt laden air of the Laphroaig Bay
to enter the cask and over the years subtly influence the
character of the maturing whisky.
40 Year Old has been created by the artistry of the nature
of Islay coupled with the application of one woman. Untouched
for forty years, Laphroaig® 40 Year Old has gone straight
from the cask to the bottle at 42.4% vol and is the oldest
Laphroaig EVER produced!
With a never to be repeated production run of just under
2,400 bottles, Laphroaig® 40 Year Old has strict distribution
with a retail price of £1000 inc vat.
Produced using distilling methods first established in 1815,
Laphroaig® 40 Year Old was laid down by one of the foremost
lady distillers and distillery owners, Bessie Williamson.
Known and respected for her vision and love of Laphroaig,
Bessie used European oak to mature this particular vintage
rather than the American oak Bourbon casks which are more
commonly used today.
The barrels have lain undisturbed in Warehouse No. 1, the
oldest maturation building at Laphroaig, which is sited at
the edge of the sea. During its 40 years in the warehouse,
a percentage of the maturing whisky has been lost due to evaporation
and replaced by the salt-laden air of Laphroaig Bay. The resulting
rich and mellow whisky has been bottled at its original cask
Iain Henderson, Laphroaig's Distillery Manager at the time,
had this to say, "Laphroaig® 40 Year Old is a superlative
whisky from one of the greatest periods in our history, with
a distinctiveness you would expect from the crowning addition
to the Laphroaig® family
LAPHROAIG® 40 YEAR OLD – One Famous Distiller,
One Famous Whisky
has many distinctions not the least being that for many years
the distillery was run and eventually owned by a lady.
This was of course the famous Bessie Williamson. She was the
young lady who came to Laphroaig from Glasgow University just
to run the office for the summer of 1933 when the office clerkess
The young Bessie learned the art of making whisky from the
owner of Laphroaig, Ian Hunter and his contemporaries. As
he became older, Ian passed on more and more of the responsibility
to Miss Bessie, as she came to be known, and just before hostilities
broke out in 1939, he had already established her as the Manager.
Bessie also undertook foreign trips on Ian Hunters behalf,
selling the Laphroaig and at the same time deciding in her
own mind how the distillery should progress for the future.
The Beginnings of the Laphroaig 40 year old
In 1954 when Ian Hunter died, he left the distillery to Bessie,
with a stipulation that its quality and high standards should
be maintained above everything, and it has been ever since.
With her drive and energy she set about increasing the level
of production at Laphroaig, still using the best barley she
could obtain, and ensuring that the water was of the correct
purity, and the peat of the finest character.
The Beginnings of the Laphroaig 40 year old
the 1959 harvest, Bessie bought from a local farmer what she
thought was a particularly good batch of barley of a variety
called “Golden Promise”. This was processed through
our own maltings and used to produce a fine whisky, as unique
as the Island itself.
In those days, the majority of whisky was matured in old
sherry or wine casks, and many of these were rebuilt as hogsheads
and it is from casks of this type that this 40 year old whisky
was matured in. They would have been made from European oak,
probably a variety called “Quercus Robur”. On
the 14th March 1960, a number of these hogsheads were filled
and placed to mature in No 1 warehouse alongside the beach
which fronts the distillery. This is the building with the
name in large letters on it, and is subjected to all that
the elements in the form of the Atlantic Ocean can fling at
During the winter gales from November through to March, very
often you can taste the salt on your lips and the smell of
the seaweed permeates through the whole building, but for
all that, the temperature has a very narrow range as befits
a temperate climate. Just perfect for the maturing of a very
special Islay Malt Whisky.
Can there be a more perfect example of Laphroaig’s
Best Islay grown barley, malted and aged on our premises
using our own peat, mashed and distilled in Bessie Williamson’s
own way (which is still the way today). Finally matured in
No 1 Warehouse for just over 40 years. It is perhaps the perfect
example of the Laphroaig distillers art from many years ago.