When Laphroaig was founded in the early 19th century, it was done so through a lease of land from the laird of Islay. Around 1810, brothers Donald and Alexander Johnston leased 1,000 acres on the isle to raise cattle. This portion of land is known today as Laphroaig, which means “broad hollow by the bay.”
Whisky may not have been the initial venture the Johnston brothers took on, but it came about as a byproduct of tending to their livestock. In order to raise cattle, you have to keep them well-fed. In Scotland, that means growing copious amounts of barley to satisfy their hunger throughout the long Scottish winter months. Elsewhere, in Britain, the surplus of barley that comes with raising cattle translates to brewing beer, but not for these two Scots.
The Laphroaig distillery was officially founded in 1815. By that time, word had spread that the Johnston’s whiskey was very tasty and different from others. This was because of the water source on Laphroaig; the water lacked any harsh minerals and was very soft, which is ideal for distilling alcohol. Realizing the potential profit of selling their stuff, the Johnstons decided to abandon their original business undertaking, focus on the whiskey, and a legend was born. From there, the lore of Laphroaig grew and grew, which led to disputes with neighboring distilleries, one of which has sustained up until this very day.