Islay Scottish Whisky Distilleries
If you’re a whisky connoisseur, then a visit to the Islay whisky distilleries should be top of your agenda. There are 9 working Scottish whisky distilleries on the 619.6 km² Isle of Islay, with daily tours to visit them. A hop and a skip across the water and you can visit the Isle of Jura distillery too. Take a look at what’s on offer…
Islay whisky history
Islay, situated on the Scottish Whisky Coast, has been producing whisky for more than 300 years. The first recorded distillery was Bowmore, dating back to 1779. However, Irish monks were the first to produce whisky on the island in the early 14th century.
Islay, and the neighbouring island Jura, have the benefit of peaty land and lots of good quality water in the Lochs and rivers. The monks also discovered that local crofters grew bere, an early variety of barley. This crop was perfect for making whisky so, the crofters would use what they needed for food etc., and the monks used the rest for their stills.
Most of Islay’s original whisky distilleries started life as farm stills. However, during the 17th century, they went into hiding in secluded glens and caves to hide from the excise man!
The working distilleries are spread across the island and are punctuated by ruined buildings and place names of distilleries that have gone. Bowmore Distillery is said to be the oldest in Scotland. Ardnahoe is the most recent, joining the ranks in 2018.
Three more distilleries are due to open in the next couple of years, giving Islay a total of 11 on such a small island! In fact, as it stands at the moment, Islay and Jura produce 20,000,000 litres of whisky a year. With the tax on alcohol currently at 40%, these small islands are major contributors to the UK economy!
Book your tour
When you are visiting the island, a tour of a couple of distilleries is a must. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the history of Islay whisky. You’ll also discover why the island is known as the ‘whisky island’ and find out where the world-renowned smoky flavour comes from.
If you think you are likely to be sampling some of the whisky, check out the Bowmore Taxi Service. When you have finished touring and had your fill of the samples, you’ll be able to head back to spend a relaxing evening in one of our cosy properties.