When Sir Peter Mackie lost his bitter legal dispute to retain the sales agency for Laphroaig whisky in 1907 he reacted in characteristic style by deciding to make his own "Laphroaig" type whisky, and in 1908 built a tradition small pot-still distillery within the Lagavulin complex. Despite hiring staff from Laphroaig and attempting to copy the Laphroaig recipe, it did not succeed, perhaps because it used a different water source. Malt Mill tried to replicate a traditional style of Islay Whisky, using only peat-dried malt, and it is reputed to have had heather added to the mash. It was always a small scale operation producing 25,000 gallons of proof spirit (113,500 litres) in its first year, compared with 128,000 gallons (581,120 litres) at Lagavulin. What is perhaps surprising is that it survived until 1962 when it was merged with Lagavulin and its coal-fired stills moved to the latter's still house for another seven years use. The Malt Mill distillery building is now the reception centre within the Lagavulin Distillery site.
Georgie Crawford Lagavulin distillery manager with priceless Malt Mill
And now, many years after the Malt Mill distillery has been closed, the worldâ€™s only known bottle of Malt Mill new-make spirit from the last fill in June 1962 pops up and was unveiled for enthusiasts and whisky pilgrims at the Lagavulin distillery yesterday. Thought to have disappeared forever, Malt Mill is the basis of the plot for the award-winning Ken Loach film, The Angelsâ€™ Share which is, I've been told, very good. The film is currently on general cinema release and was filmed in various locations around Scotland last summer. Continue reading...
Charles Maclean, one of the worldâ€™s leading whisky writers, who also played a role in the film, comments on the unveiling. "This bottle is priceless. Malt Mill is legendary, and is viewed by many as the holy grail. It is an extremely significant moment and Iâ€™m delighted to be part of it." Dr Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach, Diageo, adds, "In my twenty years as an historian and archivist, Iâ€™ve always wanted to see this unique bottle of Malt Mill go on display. We are thrilled to share this precious artefact with the many whisky enthusiasts who visit Lagavulin every year."
Rebecca Oâ€™ Brien, Producer for The Angelsâ€™ Share, says, "It is wonderful to think this bottle has been passed down from distillery manager to distillery manager for fifty years here on Islay. Our film hinges on the auction of an imaginary cask of Malt Mill precisely because everyone agreed it was so rare. Now the very DNA of Malt Mill has been rediscovered." The bottle of Malt Mill came to light after the Lagavulin distillery manager, Georgie Crawford, heard about the film. Involving some whisky related shennanigans, and based on an auction of an imaginary last cask of Malt Mill, she brought out the Malt Mill from its secret location. It had been passed on to her by her predecessor, the former Lagavulin distillery manager.