Islay is fortunate to have eight working distilleries producing distinctive and delectable malts of the peaty smoky husky kind.
Most distilleries have a visitor's center and provide informative and interesting tours, for a minimal charge.

Bowmore

Ardbeg

"The distillery traces its history to 1794. The maltings last worked in 1976 - 77, though supplies of their malted barley were no doubt eked out a little longer. Ardbeg closed in the early 1980s but towards the end of the decade began to work again, albeit very sporadically, using malt from Port Ellen. Whisky produced at that time was due to be released as a new, probably less peaty, ten year old around the turn of the millennium. The distillery is currently buying an especially heavily peated malt, the impact of which will be seen in bottlings in the course of the next ten years."

Bruichladdich

"Bruichladdich is on the north shore of Loch Indaal. Its water rises from iron-tinged stone, and flows lightly over peat. The stills have tall necks, producing a relatively light, clean spirit. Unlike the other Islay distilleries, Bruichladdich is separated from the sea, albeit only by a quiet, coastal road. Its lightly tasty whisky is a good introduction to Islay malts. The distillery was founded in 1881, rebuilt in 1886 and, despite an extension in 1975, remains little changed. Some independent bottlers call the whisky Lochindaal. An unrelated distillery of that name, long closed, vestigially survives a couple of miles further west at Port Charlotte."

Bowmore

"In both geography and palate, the whiskies of Bowmore are between the intense malts of the south shore and the gentlest extremes of the north. The water used rises from iron-tinged rock, and picks up some peat from the earth as it flows by way of the River Laggan, through moss, ferns, and rushes, to the distillery. The company has its own maltings, where the peat is crumbled before it is fired to give more smoke than heat. The malt is peated for a shorter time than that used for the more intense Islay whiskies. About 30 per cent of the whisky is aged in sherry."

Caol Ila

"Much more readily available in recent years. Its qualities as a single malt, long appreciated by connoisseurs, seem to have become more apparent to the distillery's owners. The distillery is in a cove near Port Askaig. The large windows of the still-house overlook the Sound of Islay, across which the ferry chugs to the nearby island of Jura. Behind the distillery, a hillside covered with fuschias, foxgloves, and wild roses rises toward the peaty loch where the water gathers. It is quite salty and minerally, having risen from limestone. The distillery was built in 1846, reconstructed in 1879, and brusquely modernised in the 1970s."

Lagavulin

"This classic Islay malt, with the driest and most sustained attack of any readily available whisky, has in recent years emerged from relative obscurity to international stardom. The distillery's water arrives by way of a fast-flowing stream that no doubt picks up plenty of peat on the way there. The maturation warehouses are battered by the sea, and they have their own jetty. Lagavulin means "the hollow where the mill is". There are reputed to have been ten illicit stills on this bay in the mid 1700s."

Laphroaig

"Undaunted by the command "love it or hate it", ever more devotees commune with this malt. Like hospital gauze? Medicinal, reminscent of mouthwash or disinfectant, phenolic, tar-like? That is the whole point: the iodine-like, seaweed character of Islay. The famous Laphroaig attack has diminished a little in recent years, unmasking more of the sweetness of the malt, but it is still a very characterful whisky, with a distinctively oily body. Laphroaig has its own peat beds on Islay, its own dam on the Kilbride river, a floor maltings at the distillery and relatively small stills. Its maturation warehouses face directly on to the sea."

Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain (meaning 'mouth of the river') shares its name with the village that grew up around it. In effect, development of the distillery created a community dependent upon it for employment.

In doing so, an entire village emerged, complete with schoolhouse and village hall. Prior to the building of the distillery, the adjacent area was inhospitable and uninhabited.

Usefull Links  
Islay Whisky Society http://www.islaywhiskysociety.com
Islay Whisky Club http://www.islaywhiskyclub.com
Islay Whisky Festival http://www.islay.co.uk/whiskyfestival
Islay Whisky Shop http://www.islay.co.uk/whiskyshop
Islay Whisky Festival 2003 http://www.islay.co.uk/whiskyfestival/2003/index.html
   

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