Islay Distillery Info

The main reason we first visited Islay was for the whisky ! If you are interested in the Whisky here’s some information about the Current Eight Distilleries in operation on the Isle……

Ardbeg Distillery
Ardbeg is the last of the Kildalton distilleries when you travel from Port Ellen on the A846 , since Glenmorangie took over in 1997 , a small fortune has been spent getting the place back into production and making the excellent visitor facilities we can enjoy all year round , the current owners , LVMH , are continuing the investment with A new Vatting facility being built and new warehousing due to constructed . It’s worth popping in just to taste something off the superb menu even if you’ve got no interest in the whisky ! I’ll not beat about the bush here , Ardbeg is my favourite Single Malt whisky ! The first Ardbeg i tasted was the renowned 1974 , 20yo Connoisseurs Choice , a peaty , iodiney classic of yester year ! it took a couple of years before i found some more but since then the skies been the limit . 100 plus expressions later and i hope i know the malt well ! As superb as the Spirit is , it’s not the only thing that makes Ardbeg Special , it’s the place and people . Turning down the road into the distillery is something magical , seeing the buildings spreading down to the sea , the Old Kiln , a temple to the greatness of the Malt . The people who work in the place always give you a wonderful welcome , making you feel at home the minute you walk in the door . If you want to contemplate the meaning of life head to the pier with a dram in your hand , it’s a beautiful place to sit watching the world flow by enjoying The Ultimate Islay single malt , the swishing of the waves on the shore , wild life going about it’s business all around you , the peace and tranquility , a place of pure joy ! There are quite a few Distillery bottlings available , The TEN , Uigeadail , Corryvreckan and Supernova . They also do a bottling for the Ardbeg Committee once a year and special single casks every once in a while .
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 1815 .
  • Current Owners – LVMH .
  • Production(per Annum) – 1,100,000 Litres .
  • Mill Type – Boby .
  • Barley Phenol Level – 50-56 ppm .
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 4.5 Tonnes.
  • Mashings – 4.5 Tonnes.
  • 1st Mashing – 17,5000 Litres @ 64C.
  • 2nd Mashing – 8,000 Litres @ 82C.
  • 3rd Mashing – 17,500 Litres @ 90C
  • Wash backs/Charge – 6 (3 Larch , 3 Oregon Pine)/ 23,500 litres .
  • Length of Fermentation – 68 hours weekdays (20C), 96 hours weekend (16C).
  • Wash Stills – 1 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 11,775 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 1 .
  • Spirit Still Charge – 13,660 Litres .
The Distillery is open Monday to Friday all the year round , Saturdays from Easter Weekend till September and 7 days a week June , July and August . It’s always worth booking the tours in advance and this year they are introducing special tours and tasting . You can contact them via telephone on 01496-302244 and by E-mail at jthomson@glenmorangie.co.uk .The Distilleries Website is at ardbeg.com ,
The Old Kiln
Ardbeg Pier
Ardbeg Stills
Ardbeg Warehouse
Distillery from the Sea
Bowmore Distillery
Founded in 1779 in the “capital” of Islay , on the shore of Loch Indaal , this distillery is now in the hands of the Japanese (Suntory). You can’t miss this distillery as you pass through Bowmore , though the pagodas on the school have fooled a few people!
Bowmores’ taste takes the middle ground , falling
between the heavy peat/smoke of the Kildaltons to the south and the lighter
,subtle spirits of the north and west . There’s a multitude of Distillery and independent bottlings available.
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 1779 .
  • Current Owners – Suntory .
  • Production(per Annum) – 1,700,000 Litres .
  • Mill Type – Porteus .
  • Barley Phenol Level – 25ppm.
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 8 Tonnes.
  • Wash backs/Charge – 6 (Oregon Pine)/ 40,000 litres .
  • Wash Stills – 2 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 20,000 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 2 .
  • Spirit Still Charge – 13,500 Litres .
There’s a good websites to extract information from , www.bowmore.co.uk , you can take a tour Monday to Friday (Sat Morning Sept to Easter, All day Sat Easter till June , Sat and Sun in the summer ) , again give them a ring before hand ( 01496 – 810441 ) or E-mail bowmore.distillery@morrisonbowmore.co.uk .
Bowmore Distillery
Bowmore Stills
Bruichladdich Distillery
Pronounced Brookladdie ( gaelic for “The brae on the shore” ) , this distillery is located on the western shore of Loch Indaal , directly opposite Bowmore . It was Mothballed until a change of ownership at the end of 2000 , when a consortium headed by Murray McDavid bought it off JBB . On May 29th 2001 distilling recommenced on a full time basis at the “Laddie” . There are a multitude of bottlings available  .
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 1881 .
  • Current Owners – Murray McDavid/Local Shareholders .
  • Production(per Annum) – 320,000 Litres .
  • Mill Type – Boby .
  • Barley Phenol Level – Bruichladdich 3-5ppm , Port Charlotte 40ppm , Octomore 70-130ppm.
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 7 Tonnes.
  • Wash backs/Charge – 6 (Oregon Pine)/ 36,000 litres .
  • Wash Stills – 2 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 12,000 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 2 .
  • Spirit Still Charge – 7,100 Litres .
The Distillery has a good website at www.bruichladdich.com , you can watch the full production via the webcams . Again you can take a tour during the week (Sat Morning Oct to Easter , all day Sat  during Easter to Oct) .The distillery phone number is 01496 – 850221 , For tours ring 01496-850190 or email mary@bruichladdich.com. The distillery has its own bottling hall , the only one on Islay .
Bruichladdich Distillery
Laddie Mash
Laddie Washbacks
Bunnahabhain Distillery
Bunnahabhain , Pronounced “Boonahaven” ( meaning the mouth of the river ) is the one distillery where you really have to go out of your way to go to it , It’s at the end of a long (4 miles) , twisting single track road .The drive is breath-taking and well worth it , watch out for the Islay humour on the journey as well . Now the property of Burn Stewart Distillers , until recent times it was owned by Highland Distillers (The Edrington Group , owners of Macallan , Highland Park etc) . Bunnahabhain is Marketed as “The Gentle taste of Islay” , as it is the least peated of all the Islay Malts , less than 2 ppm . Until a few years ago things were pretty thin on the ground malt wise , only the standard 12yo used to be visible on the shelf ! There was the odd special bottling , in 1981 a 1963 at 43% for the 100th Anniversary of the Distillery and a release of a 1968 in the “Family Silver” Label . Even on the Independent front the cup wasn’t exactly flowing over , the SMWS had done a few bottlings along with Cadenheads but not exactly on the scale of other Distilleries .
Things looked up in 1981 when they decided to release a Feis Ile bottling of a 35yo 1965 Sherry Cask and it was stupendous ! It certainly opened my eyes to the distillery ! In 2002 another Feis Ile bottling followed , this time a 1966 at 35yo , and at the end of the year one of my personal favourites the 34yo 1968 “Auld Acquaintance ” . The owners recently changed the standard 12 , 18 and 25yo bottlings to 46.3% ABV , Non-chillfiltered and natural colouring ! Bunnahabhain is also widely available as an Independent Bottling .
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 1881 .
  • Current Owners – Burn Stewart Distillers .
  • Production(per Annum) – 2,500,000 Litres .
  • Mill Type – Porteus .
  • Barley Phenol Level – Bunnahabhain 2ppm , Peated 38ppm.
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 13 Tonnes.
  • Wash backs/Charge – 6 (Oregon Pine)/ 66,500 litres .
  • Wash Stills – 2 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 16,625 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 2 .
  • Spirit Still Charge – 9,000 Litres .
Tours are available Monday – Friday by appointment only Oct to March , Mon-Fri April- Sept (no appointment ), VIP tours Tues and Thurs ,  , ring 01496 – 840646 or E-mail lillian.macarthur@burnstewartdistillers.com .You can view the website at www.bunnahabhain.com , full of useful info it is too !
Bunnahabhain Distillery 1
Bunnahabhain Distillery 2
Bunnahabhain Still
Caol Ila Distillery
When you come off the Afternoon ferry at Port Askaig and head west , this is the first distillery you see sign posted .Turning off the main road you head along a single track road and into the small , pretty village of Caol Ila , below this down a winding little road lies the distillery . Built in 1846 , Caol Ila (pronounced cull – eela , meaning “sound of Islay” ) , it was radically modernised in the 1970’s . It is owned by Diageo and is used in the Bells and Johnnie Walkers blend. If it wasn’t for the mighty Ardbeg , this one would probably be my favourite Islay, if you get it at a young age it can be extremely smoky and iodiney (germolene) but a few of the older recent SMWS bottlings have been this as well ! The standard bottling was at 15 years old ( the flora and fauna range with a seal on the label ) but this has been discontinued and now there are 3 bottlings in the “Hidden Malts” Series (a 12yo , a 18yo and a caskstrength bottling) and an occasional 25yo and Distillery only bottling . They have also released a few older bottlings under the Rare Malts range . There have been a load of independent releases including a few young ones from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society ( 7yo , worth trying just for the extra kick ), Coopers choice also do an excellent young release . For a malt that was rarely released as a single , its certainly fairly common now.
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 1846 (re-Built early 1970’s).
  • Current Owners – Diageo .
  • Production(per Annum) – 6,400,000 Litres .
  • Mill Type – Porteus .
  • Barley Phenol Level – 35ppm , “Highland” 0ppm.
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 11.5 Tonnes.
  • Wash backs/Charge – 10 (Oregon Pine)/ 54,000 litres .
  • Wash Stills – 3 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 18,000 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 3 .
  • Spirit Still Charge – 12,000 Litres .
If you want to see a modern distillery in action , this is the one for you . Tours will only be taking place up to the end of May this year due to a distillery upgrade taking place from June to Dec , the shop will remain open , Tel. 01496 – 302769/302760 or E-mail caolila.distillery@diageo.com . One thing to watch out for on the tour is the view from the stillhouse window across the sound of Islay to the Paps of Jura . For more information on this distillery go to www.discovering-distilleries.com/caolila .
Caol Ila Distillery 1
Caol Ila Stillhouse
Caol Ila Warehouse
Gartbreck Distillery
Gartbreck when operational will be the 9th and newest Distillery on Islay . It will be built and operated by the couple who have the Glenn ar Mor Distillery in France , Jean and Martine Donnay . It will be located on the former farm at Gartbreck just outside of Bowmore heading towards Port Ellen .
More Information will be posted later….. 
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 2014?
  • Current Owners –  
  • Production(per Annum) – ?
  • Mill Type – ?
  • Barley Phenol Level – ?
  • Mash Tun Capacity – ?
  • Wash backs/Charge – ?
  • Wash Stills – ?
  • Wash Still Charge – ?
  • Spirit Stills – ?
  • Spirit Still Charge – ?
You can find out more about the distillery on line at www.gartbreck.com/ .
Kilchoman Distillery
Islays first distillery for 125 years and now most westerly distillery , situated on Rockside Farm it is a small , traditional farm distillery . They filled there first casks in December 2005 in fresh and 1st fill Bourbon casks , They have been releasing a steady flow of Seasonal Bottlings (Spring , Summer etc) . John Mac lellan , formerly of Bunnahabhain , is now the distillery manager .
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 2005 .
  • Current Owners – Kilchoman Distillery Co. Ltd.
  • Production(per Annum) – 100,000 litres
  • Mill Type – Porteus .
  • ( 1 Tonne milled at a time )
  • Steep Capacity – 2 tonne .
  • Barley Phenol Level – 18-25 ppm from own floor .
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 1 Tonne .
  • Mashing Times – 50 Hrs Weekdays/80 Hrs Week-ends.
  • Wash backs/Charge – 2/5,400 Litres .
  • Yeast – Mauri Distillers .
  • Wash Stills – 1 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 3,000 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 1 .
  • Spirit Still Charge – 1600 Litres .
They have a very good visitors centre , which is well stocked with lots of unusual gifts and a very good Cafe which serves the usual teas coffees etc plus soups , sandwiches and cakes . Open Monday to Saturday but only half day Sat Oct to Easter , There is a managers tour on Wednesday afternoon .  Tel.01496 850011 , Website http://www.kilchomandistillery.com , E-mail shop@kilchomandistillery.com .
Kilchoman Warehouse
Kilchoman Mill
Kilchoman stills
Lagavulin Distillery
Built on the site of ten reputed illegal stills , Lagavulin ( Lagga-voolin , “the hollow where the mill is” ) was founded in 1816 in the bay where Dunyvaig Castle is . The distillery is owned by the United Distillers and is one of the Original 6 “Classic Malts” , it is located on the south shore of Islay (Kildalton) between Laphroaig and Ardbeg .there is only about 3 miles between the 3 distilleries so you could have a damn good day out if you want . Lagavulins style is dry and smoky , very smoky . I tried a bit of fresh spirit the last time i was there , even though it was very sweet to the taste , when you rubbed a small drop between your hands the smoke just flowed out ! The main stay of the range is the 16 year old ,there is also a distillers edition finished in a Pedro Ximinez cask for you sherry lovers .Recently there was a 12 and 25yo Caskstrength release , the 12yo was a stunning version , very , very peaty! The independents are a little thin on the ground (but not if you believe some people  that ever Non-attributed Islay is a Lagavulin….) , the only one’s i’ve had or owned  are a Scotch Malt Whisky Society release , A Murray McDavid and a couple of Elements of Islay from the Whisky Exchange .
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 1816.
  • Current Owners – Diageo .
  • Production(per Annum) – 2,300,000 Litres .
  • Mill Type – Porteus .
  • Barley Phenol Level – 35ppm.
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 4.32 Tonnes.
  • Wash backs/Charge – 10 (Larch)/ 21,300 litres .
  • Wash Stills – 2 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 12,300 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 2 .
  • Spirit Still Charge – 12,200 Litres .
This is one tour you should put your name down for , it has everything , History (the Lord of the Isles ) ,Modern Technology ( the computer program running the process has got to be seen to be believed ) and of course the whisky ! Tours are Monday to Friday (Jan – April Morning only , April to Oct till 5pm , Saturdays April to Oct ,  Aug till 7pm and Sundays as well !) , They also do a Warehouse Demonstration on Tues and Thurs Morning which is well worth doing ! Tel 01496 – 302730/302749 or E-mail lagavulin.distillery@diageo.com , for further information on the distillery go to www.discovering-distilleries.com/lagavulin .
Lagavulin Distillery
Lagavulin Washbacks
Lagavulin Stills
Lagavulin from the Sea
Laphroaig Distillery
Perhaps the most famous of the Islay malts,you either love it or loath it.Founded in 1815 by the Johnson family the distillery now resides in the hands of the Allied Group.It is one of the famous Kildalton distilleries (along with Ardbeg and Lagavulin),situated on the south shore of the island,the first one you come to when travelling east out of Port Ellen.Pronounced “La-Froyg” ,the name is gaelic for “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay”.
The style of this whisky is medicinal,though in recent years it strength has definitely diminished . But the good news is it seems to be getting back to it’s old self .The New owners have been revamping the core range , unfortunately the Standard 10yo hasn’t had anything done (so far….) , The 10yo Cask strength is now done in batches which has improved it a hell of a lot , The new 18yo has had its ABV increased and the “Quarter Cask” is a marvelous dram . They have also been releasing some fantastic “Friends” Bottlings . Independent bottlings can be found now and again , especially from the SMWS.
Facts and Figures

  • Date Opened – 1815 .
  • Current Owners – Fortune Brands  .
  • Production(per Annum) – 2,000,000 Litres .
  • Mill Type – Porteus .
  • Barley Phenol Level – 40ppm.
  • Mash Tun Capacity – 8.5 Tonnes.
  • Wash backs/Charge – 6 (Stainless Steel)/ 42,000 litres .
  • Wash Stills – 3 .
  • Wash Still Charge – 10,500 Litres.
  • Spirit Stills – 4(3 small,1 Large).
  • Spirit Still Charge – 4,700/9,400 Litres .
You can find out more about the distillery on line at www.laphroaig.com where you can also join the friends of Laphroaig.The distillery does tours every day of the week throughout the year (times depend on the time of the year) and they also do specialised tours/tastings .They can be contacted by phone on 01496 – 302418 or via e-mail at visitor.centre@laphroaig.com .
Laphroaig Distillery
Laphroaig from the Sea

2 thoughts on “Islay Distillery Info

  1. Hi ,

    I love to read your travel memories. With such an experience you maybe can recommend to us some ideas for our short trip. ( must see places / beaches ) . We ( 6 German guys in the age of ~ 45-50 ) are looking forward to visit Scotland next year in May.

    We want to start the trip from Edingburgh ( bec. the flight ) and thought about a train journey to Oban. Next stop Islay. Can we travel that way ? Are there ferries in Oban and which harbour they use on Islay ?

    Do you also have a recommendation for a private B&B ( I am looking for a house with character . Maybe a ” Pub — B&B” combination or something similar.

    Looking forward to get your response.

    kind regards

    Dirk from Germany

  2. Hi Dirk ,
    Thank you for your kind words .
    I take it you aren’t going to be in a car if you are talking about using the train ?
    Yes you can get the ferry from Oban to Islay ( Port Askaig) but only on a Wednesday ! The Ferry gets in to Port Askaig at 7.30pm so there would be no Buses available (they finish at 5-5.30pm) but you could book a taxi . Hopefully by next May the Port Askaig Hotels refurbishment will be finished (or at least well on….) . At one time i would have said avoid this hotel but according to people i know they are doing a good job with refurbishments .
    Most people without their own transport would either fly in from Glasgow to Islays own Airport or get a bus from Glasgow to the Kennacraig terminal . I you do come in on the Wednesday from Oban you’d have to book a bus from Kennacraig to Glasgow as well as the ferry from Islay to Kennacraig as i take it you would only be stopping a few days on Islay ?

    You may well struggle to get a B&B with a combination of single and twin rooms to meet your party , especially as i’ve had no experience of going over with 6 blokes !
    As it’s very rare to hear of a bad B&B on Islay i would say check out the links to websites on the following sites….
    http://www.islayinfo.com/menu-islay-accommodation.html
    http://www.ileach.co.uk/accommodation/index.html

    You normally find people stay in one on the main places (Port Ellen , Bowmore or Port Charlotte) especially when they are relying on the limited Public Transport , Bowmore is the most central . In Bowmore the Lochside Hotel may be more to your liking (decent bar , decent food and there are a few other places to eat in Bowmore) .
    Just remember that the Feis Ile will be happening in the last week of may (from the 29th i think) so accommodation will be practicably none existent that week .
    As for must see places…..everywhere !
    Hope i’ve been of help
    Cheers
    Gordon

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