The island of Islay is one of the Inner Hebrides islands off the west coast of Scotland. Covering approximately 240 square miles with a population of 3,228 people it is accessible by boat or plane, when the weather permits.
Home to eight active whisky distilleries and a rich history within the industry, it is one of Scotland’s five whisky producing regions.
Islay is famous for its’ peat, which over the years has partly led to the fame of the whisky produced there.
Fresh peat is dug up by the distilleries and used as a fuel for the kilns. Kilns are used when drying the barley to produce malt, the cereal ingredient used to make Scotch single malt whisky.
The aromas and tastes created from the use of peat has made the whisky from this region incredibly famous throughout the world. Alongside the smokiness, other notes that can be detected are medicinal such as antiseptic, ink or kippers.
The surrounding sea air also helps to create fresh salty notes in the whisky when the casks are laid for maturation on the island. The oldest distillery on Islay, Bowmore, was established in 1779 and there they lay their most precious casks in the “number one vaults”, the only warehouse in Scotland to be below sea level.
The islands Ardbeg distillery is famous for it’s heavy, peaty whiskies. The combination of higher quantities of peat with spirit distilled in short pot stills results in a final whisky that boasts notes to attract even the most experienced whisky drinker.
The Laphroaig is also well known, for its ‘love it or hate it’ reputation.
Each May, the island hosts the Feis Ile festival to celebrate its malt and music, welcoming thousands of visitors with unique distillery visits and bottlings.
But, Islay offers visitors more than whisky.
The island is a popular destination for golf, hiking, birdwatching, boat cruises, kayaking, pony trekking, chapels including the Bowmore village round church, museums, the Natural History Trust information centre, Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve which is well known for the geese and there is even a toy library to keep the little ones amused on a rainier day.