Malt Mill distillery

From 1908 to 1962 on the site of the current Lagavulin visitor centre there was another distillery called Malt Mill. Opened by Peter Mackie in attempt to recreate the style of neighbouring Laphroaig distillery. The distillery was integrated into Lagavulin in 1962 effectively ceasing to exist.

A distillery within a distillery

While a number of distilleries have existed within a single complex before such as:

  • The Inverleven Stills at Dumbarton Grain distillery
  • Glen Flagler & Killyloch within Garnheath Grain distillery
  • Ben Wyvis within Invergordon Grain distillery
  • Ailsa Bay within Girvan Grain distillery

Malt Mill was something of an anomally as a malt distillery created within a malt distillery. Malt Mill shared Lagavulin’s mash tun, but had its own maltings, two washbacks and two pear-shaped stills modelled after those at Laphroaig. After a fire destroyed large parts of the distillery in 1952, it had to be closed for two years. in 1960 six years after production resumed, the second distillery on the site, Malt Mill, closed for good. In 1962 the Malt Mill stills were installed in the new Lagavulin Still House and put into production.

Malt Mill becomes famous

The lost Malt Mill distillery was catapulted to fame by the film The Angels’ Share, although filming actually took place at Balblair, Glengoyne & Deanston distilleries rather than Lagavulin. The film, which takes its name from the romantic name given to whisky lost to evaporation, centres around the discovery of a mythical last cask of Malt Mill headed for auction.

In a surprising twist, while no last cask exists a final bottle did surface as a conseequence of the film. Then Lagavulin distillery manager Georgie Crawford heard about the Cannes award winning film then fetched the only existing bottle, which was passed on to her by her predecessor. It’s now on display at the Lagavulin distillery for visitors to see. In 2018 one of the only bottles of whisky bottled by the enigmatic lost distillery went to auction fetching £3,400. The miniature is thought to have sourced by independent bottler James MacArthur & Co. and one of four obtained by a collector in the mid-1990s.

‘Restless Peter’ & White Horse Distillers

In 1880 James Logan Mackie founded whisky merchant James Logan Mackie & Co. which held part ownership of Lagavulin. In 1879 he was joined by his nephew Peter Mackie who trained at Lagavulin. A year later James Logan Mackie & Co changed its name to Mackie & Co. and launched the White Horse blend. The same year Mackie & Co. acquired a stake in the newly built Craigellachie-Glenlivet distillery and acquired Greenlees & Colville Ltd, which owned the Campbeltown based Hazelburn distillery. By 1921 Mackie & Co. had taken control of Craigellachie-Glenlivet and secured half-ownership of Craggenmore in 1921. At the time of Peter Mackie’s death in In 1924 the firm was renamed White Horse Distillers in recognition of the brand which had become one of the best-known in the world.

Beyond his own distilleries, Mackie was heavily involved in the Scotch whisky definition debate between 1905 and 1909 and a campaigner for a minimum maturation age, which was finally realized in 1915 with the introduction of the Immature Spirits Act. For these efforts Peter Mackie was somewhat deservedly nicknamed Restless Peter. While his boundless energy and grand vision is obvious it would also be fair to say that he was in possession of a dangerously short fuse. In addition to his response to the ‘People’s Budget’ of April 1909 shown below, his temper also resulted in the creation of Malt Mill distillery.

The whole framing of the Budget is that of a faddist and a crank and not a statesman. But what can one expect of a Welsh country solicitor being placed, without any commercial training, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in a large country like this?

The Laphroaig row

For around 80 years the Mackies had acted as sales agents for Laphroaig as a brand, while also using large quantities of the distilleries output in their own White Horse blend. After a change of ownership Laphroaig ended their contract with Mackie as agent his first act was to block the water supply of Laphroaig. It took a court case to make him restore the waterway. In response he created a replica of Laphroaig distillery, and convinced Laphroaig’s master distiller to leave the company and run it. The distillery was known as Malt Mill.

Ultimately it seems his attempt failed as the spirit was distinctly different from that produced by Laphroaig, but inspite of this the Malt Mill distillery continued until 1960. Malt Mill’s peated whisky spirit was a contributor to some of the blends produced by Mackie & Co. & White Horse Distillers, including White Horse and Mackie’s Ancient Scotch. While the former blend is still in production today the latter was a comparatively rare blend from the 1930s and 1940s.

Malt Mill factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Malt Mill Highlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Lost 1908 - 1962 Malt Malt Mill Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group

Malt Mill Timeline:

1908: Built by Mackie & Co. (Distillers) Ltd. after they lost the agency for Laphroaig in 1907

1927: The distillery along with Lagavulin becomes part of DCL (Distillers Company Ltd.)

1960: Closed about 1960

1962: Malt Mill is closed entirely and incorporated into Lagavulin

1974: The old maltings are closed and refurbished as a visitor centre

2012: Malt Mill is popularised after a cask of its whisky appears in the The Angels' Share and Donnie MacKinnon former head brewer unveils the last remaining bottle of Malt Mill that he filled fifty years ago

2018: A 5cl of Malt Mill went on auction for £3,400

FAQs

Is Malt Mill a real distillery?

Yes, Malt Mill was a real distillery on the site of Lagavulin that operated from 1908-1962. The distillery is now part of Lagavulin.

What is a malt mill whisky?

Malt Mill was a peated Islay single malt modelled after Laphroaig distillery used primarily for blending. Examples include White Horse and Mackie's Ancient Scotch.

Where was Malt Mill filmed?

In the Angels' Share Malt Mill was actually filmed at Balblair, Glengoyne & Deanston distilleries rather than Lagavulin.

What does the name Malt Mill mean?

The malt mill distillery seems to have been named for the malt mill which breweries and distillers used to crush their barley.