Distilleries of Islay

Thursday, 2nd September 2010 by

Fans of single-malt scotch whisky associate single malts from the Isle of Islay in Scotland with bold and peaty flavors. Not every whisky produced on the island is heavily peated, but that's the signature flavour of the distilleries along the southern coast. The Isle of Islay is located on the Western edge of Scotland, just north of the sea barriers of Ireland, yet it is the southernmost of the Hebrides. Islay is home to eight active distilleries (with a ninth in production) and whisky tourism plays a major role in the economy of the island.

Google Street View offers glimpses of some of the most-famed distilleries in the world, while also providing some sense of the land—and water—that makes their products so unique. Also, some of these distilleries have top-notch signage and branding.

Let's start with my own personal favourite: Laphroaig. Unfortunately, the Street View car committed the brutal error of not turning down the path onto the distillery grounds, but you can clearly see the distillery sign.

Should you find yourself on the Isle of Islay: make that turn!

Less than a kilometre to the East is the famed Lagavulin. I would say that Lagavulin is my favourite single-malt, but a bottle of Lagavulin 16 year (at least in the U.S.) costs more than twice the price of a bottle of Laphroaig 10 year—and that's just not practical for some of us working folk. Luckily, Lagavulin is right on the main road (A846) and we can see much of the grounds:

And the distillery sign on the building:

And a tour of the distillery in progress:

Just a kilometre to the east of Lagavulin is the Ardbeg distillery. It's also not right on the main road, but we can get a pretty good view of it—complete with grazing sheep, chimneys, and the sea.

And here's the sign for the distillery:

The main inlet of the Isle of Islay is the Loch Indaal. On the southeastern shore of the Loch, we find Bowmore, the capital of the island and home to one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. It's still a relatively small operation:

And here's the distillery gate:

On the northern coast of Loch Indaal is a recently revived distillery: Bruichladdich (pronounced Brook-laddie). Bruichladdich has maybe the best distillery sign in the world:

Look at that still! Looking directly across the street from Bruichladdich provides an excellent view of Loch Indaal.

On the eastern shore of Islay, near Port Askaig, we find the distilleries of Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain. Caol Ila is right on the water and from the street we can see their excellent distillery sign, complete with oak barrel:

Bunnahabhain is situated in an ecologically rich area, and the distillery has a beautiful view of the sound and the Isle of Jura:

The Kilchoman distillery is way over on the western shore of Islay, the most westerly distillery in Scotland. It's also one of the newest, having been founded in 2005. You can barely see the distillery from the road.

If you're in the neighborhood, the small town of Kilchoman is also home to a spectacular old graveyard and abandoned church.

The newest distillery on Islay is in Port Charlotte. The project is owned by Bruichladdich and they are taking a serious approach to perfecting their craft with the new distillery.

Each of the whisky-producing regions of Scotland is full of history and unique geography. The Isle of Islay and its peaty whiskies are just one of the many wonders of Scotland's whisky industry.