Islay is unique; this island, the fifth largest in Scotland, has been designated in its own right a Scotch whisky producing region. A ferry ride west of the Campbeltown region, this Inner Hebridean island boasts an impressive eight operational distilleries. Each distillery has its own character; all* have the wonderful and distinctive Islay style: aromatic, peated, and smoky.
Islay is abundant with peat. Peat, partly decomposed vegetable matter, is distinctly different in each part of Scotland as it is made up of the local flora. Pre 1960s, in the days of floor maltings, local peat was used to dry the germinating barley and thus imparted a regional quality to the final whisky flavour. In Islay, this peat and its briny ocean surroundings lends a flavour that is renownedly Islay. Port Ellen Maltings, once a distillery of the same name, is a key fixture to Islay’s whisky industry, malting barley for most of the island's distilleries with the local peat.
The island’s distilleries cluster in three different areas: east, west, and south: three producers make up the Kildalton distilleries on the south shore; Bruichladdich and two others reside on the west; and, overlooking the Paps of Jura lies Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain* (distinctly unusual for producing mainly a non-peated new-make spirit). All but one of Islay’s distilleries, Kilchoman the newest, were built seaside. This is testament to the importance of the ocean and the transportation links it provided. In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries the only way for casks (and other necessities) to arrive or leave the island was by small cargo boats.
For a peat-o-rific exploration of Islay, peruse our unique Islay bottlings, including The MacPhail’s Collection Bunnahabhain 8 Years Old Heavily Peated.