Laphroaig’s 34-Year Single Malt Whisky Honors the Man Who Brought the Brand to the U.S.

Photo: Laphroaig | The Whisky Exchange

A distillery that’s become synonymous with peaty Scotch, Laphroaig was founded in 1815 by brothers Donald and Alexander Johnston, who leased 1,000 on the southern coast of Islay in order to raise cattle. The surplus barley stored during the winter months was quickly used to make whisky. Yet, despite a burgeoning reputation for its smoke-filled single malts, the brand struggled financially during the early 20th century.

Fortunately, Ian Hunter, the last of the Johnston family lineage, began running the company in 1921 and brought Laphroaig to a global market by the end of the decade. The single malt even made its way legally through U.S. customs after Ian convinced them that the whisky’s smokiness was due to its “medicinal properties.”

Ian’s reign lasted until his death in 1954. In 2019, Laphroaig released Book One (out of five) in its annual series called The Ian Hunter Story, a collection of single malt whiskies with high age statements. The latest, dubbed Book Four: Malt Master, is the oldest in the series thus far, aged 34 years in American white oak barrels but finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, honoring Ian’s early experimentation with bourbon and sherry casks. Like each release, the new bottle is nestled inside a book that tells a subsequent chapter in Ian’s legacy, with this one discussing his involvement in the malting process and setting up the malting floors at the distillery.

There is no release date or pricing available for the new Laphroaig release, but previous installments in the Ian Hunter series have retailed as high as $2,000.