Situated at the southernmost point of the beautiful Scottish Hebridean Islands, Islay is a single malt scotch whisky region of true character, history and distinction. With a history of whisky production which stretches back to the thirteenth century, Islay whiskies today are all about authenticity and expressing the unique character of this stunning, windswept island. While there have been dozens of distilleries on the island throughout the ages, today there are just eight, and each have their own interpretation of the classic Islay style.
This whisky region is one of only five in the British Isles which benefits from legal protection, meaning the distinctive characteristics of Islay single malts can continue to be made in a time honoured fashion for future generations to enjoy. This also means that traditions can be upheld, modern methods and short-cuts are kept at the door. Partly because of this reverence for doing things the old-fashioned way, Islay has become a major port of call in whisky tourism, something which has boosted the fortunes of the island in recent years.
The main feature of Islay single malt whisky is its extraordinary smokiness and peatiness - indeed, the whisky is produced by malting the barley over burning peat, which infuses the whisky with powerful flavors known as phenols. The whiskies of Islay also have a distinctly briney note about them, too, reflecting the island’s close and tempestuous relationship with the stormy North Sea.
When people think of fine whisky, their minds typically turn to Scotland. This wild at windy country, battered by the north sea and dotted with mountains, lochs and moors, has been the home of high-quality whisky for over six hundred years. During this time, it has forged a reputation over these centuries which has proven difficult to beat, and which has influenced the rest of the world, from America to Japan and beyond.
The term Scotch refers to either malt or grain whisky, which must be made in one of Scotland’s specified whisky regions, with practices and techniques strictly controlled by a series of stringent regulations. One such regulation is that Scotch must be aged for a minimum of three years, and that the age of the whisky must be clearly printed on the bottle. The quality and style of whisky varies quite significantly from place to place, with certain regions producing light and grassy whisky styles, and others using time-honored practices such as burning peat (a type of moorland soil) during the fermentation to imbue a smoky, earthy character.
There are five categories of Scotch, and each has its own set of distinctive characteristics and typical flavors and aromas. These are single malt Scotch (often referred to as the connoisseur's choice), blended malt Scotch, single grain Scotch, blended grain Scotch and blended Scotch whisky.