The land around Laphroaig was initially leased by two brothers in the early 1800s for raising cattle. The excess feed barley was used to make illicit whisky, which quickly gained a reputation for being remarkably good. This was due in part to the water in the area, which was of particularly high quality. The brothers quickly realized that the whisky business was more lucrative than the cattle trade, and Laphroaig was founded in 1815.
The distillery was an immediate success, although protecting the cherished but limited water source proved to be a challenge. In 1836, a rival distillery was built nearby, with the intention of using the same water. A dispute ensued that lasted for six years, until one of the rival distillers fell ill of fever and died. The upstart distillery was abandoned. Then, in 1907, the owners of another neighboring distillery sought to block and divert the water source with stones, disrupting production at Laphroaig. However, legal action quickly restored the water supply and the whisky production.
During the prohibition period in the U.S., Laphroaig was the only whisky legally imported into the country. Apparently, due to the distinct smell of iodine characteristic of the spirit, customs officials could easily be persuaded that the liquid was in fact medicinal. Since then, the distillery has continued to prosper, and is currently the best-selling Islay whisky.
Laphroaig is the only whisky to be granted the Royal Warrant of Prince Charles of Wales, and the 15 year old is said to be his favorite whisky. Hopefully he has plenty stocked up, as this expression is no longer in production.