Ardbeg Distillery, Islay

Food and drink

Whisky Distilleries on Islay

Regarded by many as 'whisky island', Islay (pronounced eye-luh) lies in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. It might be just 25 miles long and 15 miles wide, but Islay punches well above its weight for producing single malt Scotch whisky. There are nine whisky distilleries on the island, including Ardnahoe Distillery, which is due to open in summer 2018. Bowmore is said to be one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1779.

Most of Islay's original distilleries - some long since lost to history - started as farm distilleries and retreated to secluded glens and caves during the 17th century when the excise man came calling. You'll find distillery staff much more welcoming these days and it's well worth taking a tour around all of Islay's whisky distilleries.

Islay whiskies in a nutshell

  • Number of distilleries: 9
  • Oldest distillery: Bowmore (1779)
  • Most popular distillery: Ardbeg
  • Flavour profile: powerful, peaty, smoky, sweet, salty

Where is the Islay whisky region?

The Isle of Islay lies off the Argyll coast in the west of Scotland and is sometimes known as the 'Queen of the Hebrides'. It's the easiest whisky region to identify, as its boundaries align with the island itself. Alongside fine single malt Scotch whisky, Islay is also renowned for its beautiful broad beaches and burgeoning wildlife, especially migratory birdlife in autumn and winter.

Visit our Islay destination page to learn more about this fascinating island and how to get there and around.

Islay whisky characteristics

The island is covered in peat which is exposed to rain and sea spray. Harvested and used to malt the barley used in distilling, the peat and the maritime climate gives Islay whiskies their characteristic pungent peaty, smoky and oily flavours, with just a hint of salty sea air and seaweed. The island is probably most famous for the 'big smokes' of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.

Islay distilleries

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