Islay: A Whisky Lover's Paradise

Jenny McNeely spent a few days on Islay, wrote a positive report about the "Malt Island" and called Islay a Whisky Lover's Paradise. Eight distilleries, nine in 2009 when Port Charlotte opens, on a relatively small area are responsible for this beautiful malt paradise and no matter where you stay on Islay, there's always a distillery around the corner. Below a few interesting quotes from Jenny's article in the Scotsman:

....further along the road is Lagavulin (Lagga-vool-in), which occupies another enviable position with a view of Dunyvaig Castle. A peat-darkened stream flows into Lagavulin, carrying the water from Sholum Lochs, the distillery's water source. This is a historic spot: the castle dates from the 14th century, and stills of an illicit nature have been recorded here since the 1700s. The pier that remains part of the distillery harks back to the days when "puffers" would bring barley, coal and casks to the distillery.

The establishment of Kilchoman in 2005 (picture top-right), the first new distillery on the island for more than 124 years, usurped Bruichladdich's title as the most westerly distillery. Kilchoman is a farm distillery, of which there were once many on the island. The names Octomore, Scarrabus, Coullabus, Daill and Lossit remain as ghostly reminders of the farm communities which are now sadly reduced in numbers. As debate rages over how long whisky should remain on the island to truly earn the Islay malt status, Kilchoman aims for authenticity by growing its own barley, malting it, then barrelling and bottling the whisky on the small Rockside farm where the distillery is based. The first five-year-old Kilchoman will not be bottled until 2011.

The alchemy of nature has made Islay one of the most important whisky-producing areas in the world. What exactly makes it so special is widely disputed. Is it the peaty water used to distil the spirit, or the briny air that mingles with the maturing spirit as the "angels' share" evaporates? Is it the peat itself, lashed with seawater that gives Islay malts their unique character? There are no definitive answers and no greater pleasure than to ponder these questions with a malt in hand after a day on Islay.

Tag: lagavulin whisky kilchoman peat

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