Welcome to the island of Islay with its distilleries and long history.
Islay (pronounced Eye-la) is an island situated off the coast of Scotland, directly west of Glasgow. Origin of the name is uncertain; it may be derived from ‘island divided in two’,’ law island’ or possibly named after a Pictish princess named Ile. The principal activities on the island are tourism, farming, fishing and whisky distilling. Islay is renowned for its eight whisky distilleries the product of which is (with one exception) noted for its peaty or smoky flavours. In addition to touring the famed distilleries visitors can undertake a wide range of activities including golf, bird watching, visit historic sites and take a short ferry trip to the nearby island of Jura which also has a distillery.
Catswhiskerstours works with guests to arrange and deliver customised tours. The information below is provided to assist guests with understanding of Islay.
Helped by an abundant supply of peat (decayed vegetation which can be used as fuel) and water, Islay produces a range of classic malts from the following distilleries:
Ardbeg (‘Little Height or Promontory’) – Founded 1815, located at Port Ellen and owned by Glenmorangie. Uses a malted barley with a high phenol content and sources peaty water form Loch Uigeadail, about one mile from the distillery. Output includes a 10 year old (46pct and non-chill filtered) and a 17 year old (40pct and blended from a range of Ardbeg expressions).
Bowmore (‘Sea Reef or Sea Rock’) – Founded 1779, located at Bowmore and owned by Suntory of Japan. Sources water from the peaty River Laggan and cuts local peat for its traditional floor maltings. Uses four onion shaped stills for distillation. Output includes Bowmore Legend (40pct and 8-10 year old), a 12 year old (40 pct.) and a 15 year old ( 43pct).
Bruichladdich (‘Brae of the Shore’) – Founded 1881, located at Bruichladdich and privately owned. Uses spring water with a high peat content. The malts, which are produced un chill-filtered, include a 10 year old (46pct), a 15 year old (46pct.) and a 20 year old (46pct.).
Bunnahabhain (‘River Mouth’) – Founded 1881, located at Port Askaig and owned by Burns Stewart. Unusually for Islay, this distillery produces an unpeated malt which sources its water from the Margadale Spring. The spirit, which is distilled in four onion shaped stills, is mainly used in blends. Principal product is the 12 year old at 40pct.
Caol Ila (‘Sound of Islay’) – Founded 1846, located at Port Askaig and owned by major drinks conglomerate, Diageo. Sources water from Loch nam Ban about one mile away and distils using six onion shaped stills. Historically the product has been extensively used in blending. Principal single malt is the 15 year old (43pct.).
Kilchoman (‘St. Comman’s Church’) – First new distillery on Islay for 124 years, located about five miles west of Bruichladdich, close to Atlantic Ocean. Privately owned. First whisky (three year old) produced 2009.
Lagavulin (‘Mill Hollow’) – A sister distillery to Caol Ila which was founded 1817, located at Port Ellen and owned by drinks conglomerate, Diageo. Sources water high in peat content from a stream flowing from Solan Lochs situated north of the distillery and distils with four, broad necked stills. Output includes Lagavulin 16 year old (43pct.) and Lagavulin 1979 Distiller’s Edition (43pct.)
Laphroaig (‘A Cave’) – Founded 1815, located at Port Ellen and owned by Allied Domecq. Malts barley on site with locally cut peat and sources water from the Kilbride dam. This malt is famed for its raw, pungent taste. Principal malts include a 10 year old (40pct.), 10 year old cask strength (57.3pct.) and a 15 year old (43pct.)
What else can I see and do on Islay?
Bird Watching- Some 110 species of bird breed on Islay and about 50,000 geese overwinter here. There is a visitor centre at Aoradh Farm.
Museum of Islay Life- at Port Charlotte.
Loch Finlaggan– A historic site, formerly a power base of the Macdonalds when Lords of the Isles. Located between Port Askaig and Bridgend.
Kilnave– A chapel associated with the massacre of Maclean clansmen. Located in the NW. tip of Islay.
Golf– Machrie Golf Links at Port Ellen
Kildaton High Cross – Located about seven miles N.E. of Port Ellen, past Ardbeg distillery. This is a 2.65M high early Christian cross dating from the 8th century.
Visit Jura– a very short ferry trip from Port Askaig. Jura means ‘Deer Isle’. This is where George Orwell wrote ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ (in 1948).Sites of interest include the ‘Paps of Jura’ (mountains) and Craighouse where is located the Isle of Jura Distillery which dates from 1810 and produces an unpeated malt, closer to the Highland style than that of neighbouring distilleries on Islay.
Attend the Islay Festival of Malt and Music (‘Feis Ile’) – Lasts for one week commencing last weekend of May each year
How can I get to Islay?
By Ferry- from Kennacraig (on the west coast of Scotland) to either Port Askaig or Port Ellen. Journey times approximately two hours.
By Air– Regular flights (approximately 40 mins each way) from Glasgow International Airport.
We can arrange:-
For more information and help contact Nigel-
T 44 (0) 141 638 5500
We look forward to hearing from you!