Many of you have probably came across the term Islay (pronounced eye-luh) whisky labelled on a bottle of single malt scotch. If you know about and have tasted some Islay whisky, I’d like to say congratulations! or sorry… depending on how your experience went.
Islay whisky gets its name from the location it is produced in – Islay, one of the Inner Hebridean Islands located off the west coast of Scotland.
Islay’s whisky-making history stretches back as far as the 1500s where it’s said that monks were the first of any to distill spirits. As of 2019, the region now has nine official whisky distilleries operating today with more believed to appear in the near future.
Islay’s oldest distillery is Bowmore which has been around since 1779. The most recent distillery to open was Ardnahoe which first began producing spirit a year before their official launch in 2019.
Why Are Islay Whiskies So Special?
Aside from being exclusively produced in one region, Islay whisky uses a special resource native to the island – peat: a partially decomposed and compressed vegetable matter found in bogs.
The process of making an Islay whisky is nearly similar to any other single malt with the key difference being that Islay whiskies are famously dried over a fire mixed in with peat,
This produces a smoke that infuses itself into the malt – giving the finished product very distinctive flavours and aromas.
Flavours & Aromas
Once the malt has been properly dried and heated, hot water is added into the mash – forming a sugary liquid that seeps out. This liquid is collected and left to ferment after the addition of some yeast.
When the spirit us done fermenting, it undergoes a distillation process to raise its overall alcohol concentration. The spirit is usually distilled for multiple rounds, producing raw whisky that would be left to age in casks or wooden barrels.
This is the point where Islay whiskies start to develop their flavour. Spirits previously aged in those casks (eg: red wine, bourbon etc.) will be absorbed by the still-maturing whisky to develop a noticeably complex flavour profile.
It’s important to note that some distilleries use more than one type of cask (eg: Laphroaig Select) to bring about multiple layers of flavour.
Which Islay Whisky To Try First?
With each distillery producing their own, distinctive whisky expressions – you should try all of them… if you ever get the chance to! Just like any other beverage, the best for you always boils down to personal preference.
In any case, if you’re really craving for some Islay whisky, we here at The Good Stuff have an amazing selection for you to choose from!
Browse through The Good Stuff’s shop page and have our bottles delivered to your home!
*Click on the photos below to view on our shop page: