Islay (pronounced ‘EYE-lay’) is the southernmost of the Western Isles of Scotland and, apart from the single malt Scotch whisky produced in Speyside, it is definitely the most popular regions to buy single malt Scotch from.
Islay boasts the highest concentration of single malt Scotch whisky distilleries on any of the other islands. There are around 8 distilleries on Islay and there used to be many more.
Because of the number of distilleries on Islay and the fact that Islay produces some of the most unique single malt whiskies, Islay single malt whisky is a single malt whisky producing region in its own right.
Whiskies produced in Islay are usually associated with a strong peaty flavour. Islay produces some of the best single malt whiskies from the whole of Scotland. It was probably on Islay where whisky distillation was first started in Scotland.
Single Malt Scotch Whisky Distilleries on Islay
Let’s take a short tour of some of the most well know distilleries on Islay, starting with the north and working our way south.
The Bunnahabhain Islay Whisky
(Pronounced ‘BOON-a-havn’) produces one of the milder Islay single malt whiskies. Bunnahabhain Islay whisky has a very unique taste, different from other Islay whiskies. Distillers have been producing whisky on the site since 1881.
The oldest distillery on the island and one of the most popular Islay single malt whiskies, Bowmore Islay whisky is the second best selling whisky behind Laphroaig.
The single malts produced are peaty – not as light as Bunnahabhain and not as intense as Laphroaig and Lagavullin. Distillers at Bowmore source most the barley from the island and they also import some from the mainland. They produce many limited editions whiskies, with the most expensive being the Bowmore Trilogy – three rare whiskies which cost around £15,000.
Lagavulin Islay Single Malt
The single malts distilled here are some of the most intense smokiest whiskies a person will taste. Distillers at Lagavulin use peat from a local peat bog which has very dark peat. The single malt whisky is distilled very slowly with the first distillation taking around 5 hours and the second 9 hours. Most of the whisky is for sale as single malt and only about 2% is kept for blending. It is one of the six classic malts. It used to be the best selling Islay malt until Laphroaig took over.
Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky
(Pronounced ‘La-FROYg’) Currently, the best selling Islay whisky and it has an almost cult following. There is certainly not another single malt whisky which compares to Laphroaig. It has a very pungent flavour. It also has royal connections, with the 15 yr old single malt being the favourite of Prince Charles. They also produce 27- 30- and 40- year old single malts which are rare and expensive.
Laphroaig market their single malts as: “Tastes like heaven, smells like hell”!
(Pronounced ‘brook-lad-ee’) This Bruichladdich distillery has established itself over the past years as a producer of great single malts. This is the only independent distillery on Islay and they have the oldest working still in Scotland.
When it was built in 1881 it was a state-of-the-art whisky distillery, being purpose built – rather than evolving from farm distilleries. It has gone through many changes of owners over the many years it has been in production. Then in 2000, a group of private investors bought the distillery. They dismantled and reassembled the distillery at Bruichladdich in 2001 where it still retains its original Victorian decor and equipment. Most of the original machinery is still in use today.
Single Malt Scotches From Islay – In Conclusion
Islay single malt scotch whiskies represent some of the best single malt whiskies available. They have all the elements that people expect from single malts with very pronounced peaty tastes, although some of the more pungent ones might be a little too strong for some people.