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Islay: A Whisky lovers Paradise Island! Part 1: South.

Islay: A Whisky lovers Paradise Island! Part 1: South.

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The southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, known as “The Queen of the Hebrides”. It lies in Argyll just south west of Jura and around 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the Northern Irish coast. Today, it has over 3,000 inhabitants and the main commercial activities are agriculture, malt whisky distillation and tourism.

Islay is one of five whisky distilling localities and regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law. The oldest record of a legal distillery on the island refers to Bowmore in 1779 and at one time there were up to 23 distilleries in operation.

There are 8 active distilleries currently. Those on the south of the island produce malts with a very strong peaty flavour, considered to be the most intensely flavoured of all whiskies, they are Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. On the north of the island Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain are produced, which are substantially lighter in taste. Kilchoman is a micro-distillery opened in 2005 toward the west coast of the Rinns. For more information on each browse below or click to jump to a particular distillery.

This first article is going to focus on the 3 distilleries along the coastal path on the south of the Island: ArdbegLaphroaig and Lagavulin. For more information on the other distilleries, check out part 2, which covers: BowmoreBruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila and Kilchoman.

Ardbeg: Entering Islay Time

For over 200 years, Ardbeg has been made on the small, remote Scottish Isle of Islay. Some people travel to Ardbeg along the winding road from Port Ellen. Others follow their nose, their destiny or the advice of a good friend.

Ardbeg has been called “as close to perfection as makes no difference” by whisky connoisseurs. Proof then, that Ardbeg truly deserves its incredible reputation. It’s a whisky that’s worshipped around the world. In the past ten years, six different Ardbeg expressions have won prestigious titles including World Whisky of the Year, Scotch Whisky of the Year and World’s Best Single Malt.

The fastest way to take yourself to Islay is to uncork a bottle of Ardbeg. However, you can’t beat actually being at the Distillery, staying at Seaview Cottage and standing on Ardbeg’s pier, enveloped in fresh sea breeze and Ardbeg’s peaty aroma. They would love to see you here in person. In the meantime, why not visit an Ardbeg Embassy, their spiritual homes stationed throughout the world…

Laphroaig: The most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies

Laphroaig (La-froyg) is the story of a community. An uncompromising, tough and determined group of people who work to ensure that this defining whisky has always remained true to its origins. Established in 1825 by brothers Donald and Alexander Johnston, Laphroaig still employs the traditional methods and time-honoured skills that have been used for centuries to produce the most distinctive single malt in the world.

Located at the head of Loch Laphroaig on the south coast of Islay, Laphroaig Distillery is renowned for the rich, unmistakable taste of its whisky which is the favourite of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and even bears his Royal Warrant.

In 1994 the Friends of Laphroaig Club was established, members of which are granted a lifetime lease of 1 square foot (930 cm2) of Laphroaig land on the island of Islay. The annual rent is a dram of Laphroaig which can be obtained upon visiting the distillery.

“There are 3 main ingredients for making Laphroaig – Barley, Water, and Yeast, but the secret ingredient is the People” Iain Henderson – Head Distiller.

Lagavulin: Uncover the history behind the liquid

In 1742 there were at least ten illicit stills at Lagavulin, and it would be another 74 years until local farmer John Johnston founded the first legal distillery, in sight of Dunyvaig Castle. Its name may have changed over the years, but the quiet power of peat and smoke that pervades this masculine malt has not.

Situated at the picturesque Lagavulin Bay, this is an experience not to be missed. Take a tour of the distillery, see our distillers at work and view the unusual pear shaped stills. Peated malt, slow distillation and long maturation together ensure Lagavulin develops a complex, rich, peaty character. Lagavulin is a spirit which likes to take its time.

They have a range of tours available – the one hour Lagavulin Distillery Tour, the Core Range Tasting Tour, the Warehouse Demonstration and the Sensory Tasting Experience.

Have you visited Islay? Whats your favourite Whisky or Distillery on the island?

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