We all appreciate the finer things in life. A gripping book, time spent with friends, and some fine food are just a few of the simple pleasures that we can take pleasure in. Another simple enjoyment is whisky. If you are fortunate to live in Scotland you will be surrounded by the main varieties of whisky. But there is only one you must experience. Islay Whisky.
Just off the east coast of Scotland is the small island of Islay, the southernmost isle of the Outer Hebrides. The sites of Islay itself is one for the memories as you encounter a weather beaten town, the scenery is breath-taking across the shores. Covered in peat bogs, this acts as an advantage for the island. Traditionally, the peat has been used to heat homes and provide the necessary fuel for survival on what would otherwise be a quite unforgiving environment.
For years the locals have used peat to roast their malts to produce the smoky flavours of the whisky. It is also used in the productions of the island’s biggest export: Uisge Beathe (or whisky to those of you who don’t speak Scots Gaelic). The story goes that Irish monks brought the art of whisky (or whiskey, if you’re Irish) distillation to the island somewhere around the early fourteenth century. Records are patchy, but whenever the art arrived, Islay is now known for its multitude of high quality Islay whisky distilleries.
With hazy details it appears that the oldest Islay whisky distillery on the island is Bowmore, which was founded in 1779, making it 238 years old. Since then, a multitude of other famous – or possibly infamous, depending on your point of view – Islay whisky distilleries have opened up. These include Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, and Bruichladdich. There are other, newer arrivals, but those mentioned previously are the core of the Islay whisky business.
It’s smokey, peated flavour that is Islay whisky is well known for this distinctive characteristic. Which comes from the roasting process of the malts which is then used in the distillation. The peat smoke imparts flavour into the Islay whisky at a ratio known as PPM – parts per million. The higher the ratio, the stronger the peatyness, or smokyness, of the islay whisky. This combines with the malt used, distillation process, and cuts used to create the overall flavour and character of the islay whisky.
It is the intricate detail and lengthy distillation process that makes Islay whisky in high demand globally. Scotch whisky as a whole is considered one of, if not the, finest spirits available around the world, so any kind of whisky that stands out within that is highly regarded. For such a small island, Islay has a reputation for its whisky which is known throughout the world. Not bad for a weather beaten isle in the Outer Hebrides.