Islay whisky is Scotch whisky made on Islay (ˈaɪlə/ eye-lə) or Ìle in Gaelic, the southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Islands located off the west coast of Scotland. There are eight active distilleries on the island, as of early 2008, with a ninth being made ready for production. Islay is a centre of “whisky tourism”, and hosts a “Festival of Malt and Music” known as Fèis Ìle each year at the end of May, with events and tastings celebrating the cultural heritage of the island.
Styles of Whiskey
The whiskies of the distilleries along the southeastern coast of the island, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, have a smoky character derived from peat, considered a central characteristic of the Islay malts, and ascribed both to the water from which the whisky is made and to the peating levels of the barley. Many describe this as a “medicinal” flavour. They also possess notes of iodine,seaweed and salt. Caol Ila, on the northern side of the island, across from Jura, produces a strongly peated whisky as well.
The other distilleries on the island make whisky in a variety of styles. Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich make much lighter whiskies which are generally lightly peated, though Bruichladdich also produces several heavily peated products. Bowmore produces a whisky which is well balanced, using a medium-strong peating level (25ppm) but also using sherry-cask maturation. The newest distillery, Kilchoman, started production in late 2005. In location it is unlike the other seven distilleries, which are all by the sea.