One of the world’s rarest bottles of Single Malt Scotch Whisky returned home to Lagavulin Distillery at the beginning of this month.
The exceptional 130-year old unopened bottle of “Lagavulin Liqueur” contains single malt whisky that was distilled at Lagavulin Distillery on Islay on 2 June 1881. After an extraordinary 30 years in cask, the single malt was bottled on 2 June 1911 by Mackie & Co of Glasgow, then owners of Lagavulin Distillery and a firm with a long tradition of supplying Islay malts.
It was rare for 19th century whiskies to be offered as single malts – most found their way into blended whisky – but according to Alfred Barnard, celebrated author of The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom (published 1887), “there are only a few of the Scotch distillers that turn out spirit for use as single whiskies, and that made at Lagavulin can claim to be one of the most prominent“.
This precious bottle was acquired at auction by Diageo and forms part of the comprehensive Diageo spirits industry Archive. It was recently exhibited at the Visitors Centre at Royal Lochnagar distillery on Deeside.
But on 2 June, Donald Renwick, the distillery manager at Royal Lochnagar and former distillery manager at Lagavulin, travelled to Islay to carry the bottle back home, where it has been deposited in an ultra-secure display case in the Visitors Centre.
The handover at Lagavulin Distillery took place on the 100th anniversary of the bottling, and the 130th anniversary of its distilling, to the exact day. Donald Renwick was accompanied on his journey to Islay by two other former Lagavulin distillery managers, Peter Campbell and John Thomson, who joined him in handing the bottle into the safe-keeping of the distillery’s present manager, Georgie Crawford.
About Lagavulin Distillery
Although Lagavulin Bay may have already been a centre of whisky production in the early 17th century, it was in 1816 that John Johnston founded the first legal distillery at Lagavulin, where it remains, dominated by the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle, a 13th century base of The Lords of the Isles.
As with most Scottish distilleries, it passed through the hands of different owners, including the celebrated Sir Peter Mackie, whose company became White Horse Distillers, forever associated with Lagavulin.
White Horse joined The Distillers Company Ltd. (eventually Diageo) in 1927. In 1989, Lagavulin, now bottled at 16 years rather than the original 12, became one of the six Classic Malts of Scotland; but a limited-edition of 12 year old expression is regularly issued in the annual Special Releases series.