Lagavulin distillery was founded in 1816 on Islay's south coast at Lagavulin Bay, close to Dunyvaig Castle. Founder John Johnston took over a second distillery on the same site which was absorbed into Lagavulin in 1837.
The distillery was purchased by whisky blender John Logan Mackie in 1862, and his nephew, Peter J Mackie, would go on to become a prominent figure in the whisky trade in the late 19th century. In addition to running Lagavulin, he co-founded Craigellachie distillery and created the White Horse blend which was launched in 1890. The company changed its name to Mackie & Co. in the same year.
Following a dispute with neighbouring Laphroaig distillery (whose whisky used to supply Lagavulin's blends), Mackie built Malt Mill distillery in 1908. With stills modelled on those found at Laphroaig, Malt Mill contributed to blends including Mackie's Ancient Scotch and White Horse, but was never bottled as a single malt. Malt Mill closed in 1962 and its equipment was incorporated into Lagavulin.
When Peter Mackie died in 1924, the company changed its name to White Horse Distillers. It became part of Distillers Company Limited in 1927.
In 1988, Lagavulin 16 Year Old was selected as Islay's representative in the Classic Malts range. Although owner United Distillers thought the distillery's heavily-peated character would deter your average whisky drinker, the malt became a runaway success.
From the early 2000s, a cask strength Lagavulin 12 Year Old has become a constant feature in Diageo's annual Special Releases, and the Distillers Edition series of vintage malts saw Lagavulin's peat smoke tempered by Pedro Ximenez cask finishing.
Lagavulin distillery celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2016 by releasing an 8 Year Old expression as well as a limited number of its 25 Year Old to raise money for Islay charities.