Islay whisky is Scotch whisky made on Islay (/ˈaɪlə/ EYE-lə) or Ìle in Gaelic, one of the southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Islands located off the west coast of Scotland. Islay is one of five whisky distilling localities and regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law.
There are eight active distilleries and the industry is the island’s second largest employer after agriculture. Islay is a centre of “whisky tourism”, and hosts a “Festival of Malt and Music” known as Fèis Ìle each year at the end of May, with events and tastings celebrating the cultural heritage of the island.
The whiskies of the distilleries along the south-eastern coast of the island, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, have a smoky character derived from peat, considered a central characteristic of the Islay malts, and ascribed both to the water from which the whisky is made and to the peating levels of the barley. Many describe this as a “medicinal” flavour. They also possess notes of iodine, seaweed and salt. Caol Ila, on the northern side of the island, across from JuraJura, also produces a strongly peated whisky.
The other distilleries on the island make whisky in a variety of styles. Bunnahabhain makes much lighter whiskies which are generally lightly peated, while Bruichladdich no longer produces peated whisky under the Bruichladdich label. Bowmore produces a whisky which is well balanced, using a medium-strong peating level (25 ppm) but also using sherry-cask maturation. The newest distillery, Kilchoman, started production in late 2005. In location it is unlike the other seven distilleries, which are all by the sea.ArdbegBowmoreBruichladdichBunnahabhainCaol IlaKilchomanLagavulinLaphroaig
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