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Stills, Tobermory

Coal Ila Distillery

Lagavulin Distillery

Port Ellen, Islay
 

Several of the Argyll Islands are prominent in whisky production. There are seven whisky distilleries on the tiny Hebridean island of Islay alone! The landscapes in these unique and unspoiled locations combine to give the area’s island whiskies their distinctive flavours.

Islay
What marks this island out is its unique ability to produce the most powerful, challenging and ultimately, the most rewarding malt whiskies in the world!

The principal driving force behind Islay whiskies is peat. The island is covered in great swathes of blanket bog, and the peat it produces contains traces of highly aromatic plants. When used to dry malted barley, this pungent fuel imparts a characteristic smoky flavour in the whisky.

The Distilleries

Ardbeg (from the Gaelic for "small headland")

Ardbeg Logo

Lying on the southern shore of Islay the distillery was founded in 1815, but its origins are even older. It is known that illicit distilling took place in the area for centuries before that.

In 1981, the distillery fell silent and was mothballed. Fortunately in
1997, to the delight of fans all over the world Glenmorangie plc rescued Ardbeg. Now, once again Ardbeg flows freely. And in the Old Kiln Cafe you can enjoy a dram and Mary's celebrated home-cooking!

Taste: Typical robust Islay aromas of peat-smoke, sawdust, seaweed and iodine, with a hefty bite and a rich finish. Subtler notes of lemon, rope, tar, vanilla.

Ardbeg Bottle

Bowmore (from the Gaelic for "big reef")

Bowmore Logo

The distillery is almost as old as the village itself, and was established in 1779 making it one of the oldest in Scotland. It has produced whisky continually ever since which is one of the factors that enable it to produce such a wide range of different single malts. Bowmore is available in 8, 12, 15, 17, 21, 25, 30 & 40 year-old bottlings, as well as a range of finishes including sherry, port and Bordeaux. The distillery is one of the few that still malts its own barley, the distinctive peat reek wafting over the village when the kilns are fired up. It lies directly on the shores of Loch Indaal, and the warehouse is below sea level which helps develop the characteristically sea-salt tang of Bowmore's whisky.

Taste: Delicately smoky with hints of seaweed, iodine and chocolate, this complex malt has a distinctly salty edge. As it ages Bowmore becomes more complex and deeper, revealing notes of rose petals and citrus fruits giving way to biscuity, toasty and marzipan flavours by the time it has reached maturity.

Bowmore Bottle

Bruichladdich (pronounced brook-laddie, from the Gaelic for "the brae by the shore")

Bruichladdich Logo

The most westerly distillery in Scotland, Bruichladdich looks rather like a French chateau transferred to the storm-tossed shores of Loch Indaal. Its stills are unusually tall and slender-necked which, together with the use of lightly-peated malt, original equipment and distilling techniques, produce the most elegant of Islay malts. It is unique in that it is the only Islay malt to be bottled on the island using local spring water.

Taste: Mossy and grassy with hints of brine, lightly toasted
almonds and a distinctive rich texture. The faintest waft of peat smoke comes through the honey and subtle tropical fruit character of this most delicate example of Islay whisky. An excellent alternative to its peatier island cousins.

Bruichladdich Bottle

Bunnahabhainn (pronounced boo-na-hav'n, from the Gaelic for "the mouth of the river")

Bunnahabhain Logo
Black Bottle Logo

The northernmost of Islay's distilleries, on the island's eastern shore overlooking the Sound of Jura. It is, quite literally, the end of the road: north of the distillery is nothing but the wild headland of Rudha a' Mhˆil. It has changed very little since it opened in 1883. Like many of the distilleries on the island, a little community has grown around it, and it is appropriate that both share the same name. Bunnahabhain is unique among Islay malts in that it draws some of its water from springs, which means there is comparatively little peat in it. This contributes to the lightness of the whisky, which is often described as the least Islay-like of the island's malts.

Taste: Sweeter and lighter than other Islay malts, with lightly nutty and fresh, grassy notes and a slight saltiness. It has the faintest hint of smoke and a herbal tang.

Bunnahabhain distillery is also the home of Black Bottle, a whisky which has been crafted over time to fully embrace the intensity of Islay Malt Whisky in a complex, satisfying blend. There are two excellent variants, Black Bottle and Black Bottle 10 Year Old.

Bunnahabhainn Bottle

Caol Ila (pronounced cool-eela, from the Gaelic for "Sound of Islay")

Caol Ila Logo

Originally established in 1846, the distillery named after the narrow strip of water that separates Islay from Jura on whose shore it sits, is near the tiny ferry terminal at Port Askaig.

The distillery draws its water from nearby Loch nam Ban, whose waters are richer in limestone and lighter in peat deposits than those on the southern and western sides of the island. Consequently, like its near neighbour Bunnahabhainn, Caol Ila's whisky is noticeably lighter and less smoky than most Islay malts.

Taste: Sweet floral fragrances with a firm body and malty taste, a long finish with delicate aromas and light smoke.

Caol Ila Bottle

Lagavulin (pronounced lag a voolin from the Gaelic meaning ‘the hollow of the mill’)

Lagavulin Logo

Founded in 1861, although the grounds of the distillery encompass an ancient stronghold of the Lords of the Isles known as Dun Naomahaig. It is thought that as many as a dozen illicit stills once operated in the Port Ellen area where the Lagavulin distillery still stands on Islay’s southern shore. Over time, they slowly merged to form the modern version which, by as early as the 1870s, was producing over 75,000 gallons of whisky a year!

Taste: A powerful peat-smoke nose with seaweed and some sweetness, salty and sweet flavours with hints of wood and a long peaty-salt finish.

Lagavulin Bottle

Laphroaig (pronounced Lafroyg, from the Gaelic meaning ‘beautiful hollow by the broad bay’)

Laphroaig Logo

One of the best known malt whiskies in the world. It’s fair to say with its intensely medicinal flavours, Laphroaig is a whisky you either love or hate!

One of the few distilleries to maintain its own maltings. Laphroaig has many of its original buildings which help to retain much of the character that made it famous. It harvests its own unique peat bogs and takes water from its own source to produce the famous peaty, intense malt whisky that is its hallmark.

Taste: The most pungent and powerful of all Scotch malt whiskies. Laphroaig’s hallmarks are great wafts of TCP, carbolic soap, sea-salt and peat smoke! More astute tasters may also detect hints of coconut and vanilla in the younger bottlings, giving way to subtler citrusy and rounded flavours as the whisky becomes more mature. It has a noticeably oily mouth feel.

 

Laphroaig Bottle

Isle of Jura

Isle of Jura Bottle

In contrast to is near neighbour, Jura is one of the most rugged, remote and mountainous of Scotland’s Islands. With so much wildness it comes as a surprise to many whisky drinkers to discover that the whisky produced on the island is one of the lightest island malts with an elegance and sophistication that belies its wild surroundings.

Apart from the soft water, Isle of Jura’s particularly long and slender-necked stills are also credited for their contribution to the lightness and tenderness of the whisky.

Taste: Much lighter and less peaty than Islay malts, Isle of Jura has distinctive juniper/pine notes with a hint of roasted almonds and the slightest hint of smoke from its mild exposure to peat.


Isle of Mull
Third largest of the Hebrides and one of the most beautiful islands to explore. It has a rich cultural heritage and some of the most stunning land and seascapes to be found. The island’s main town Tobermory, which shares it name with the local distillery, is famed for the cheerful colours of its waterfront buildings and yachts bobbing in the natural harbour.

Tobermory

Ledaig Logo

One of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, whisky making in the town dates back to its origins in the 1790’s although the present distillery was established in 1823. Originally named Ledaig, from the Gaelic meaning ‘safe harbour’ the distillery still produces a suite of single malts under that name.

Taste: Tobermory 10 Year Old is an unpeated malt, slightly sweet and vanilla (even custardy) notes and a hint of mint. Ledaig is peated and much more typical of island malts, with characteristic smoke and spice becoming deeper and more complex as it matures to its 15 and 20 Year Old varieties.

 

 

Tobermory Bottle

Isle of Arran

Isle of Arran Logo

Arran is a unique island known as 'Scotland in Miniature', for it has all of the scenery of Scotland, with mountains and lowlands, glens, lochs and royal castles (including one at Lochranza). Early in the 19th century there were more than 50 whisky distilleries on Arran, most of them illegal and carefully hidden from the eyes of the taxmen!

The last distillery ceased production in 1837 and Arran found itself without whisky production for over 150 years until the Lochranza Distillery was opened in 1995.

At present, as well as Arran Single Malt, the distillery also produces Lochranza, a subtle smooth blended whisky which has at its heart a proportion of the acclaimed Arran Single Malt.

Taste:
Floral and estery, with a citrus, fudge-like aroma, with a background hint of sherry wood. A pleasant palate with a light peat character followed by a clean aftertaste of finished malt.

Isle of Arran Bottle