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Whisky Fans, Your Guide to Islay ‘Queen of the Hebrides’

on 23/05/14 at 2:46 pm


indexOr, as it’s even more affectionately known to whisky fans, ‘the one with all the distilleries on it’.

For anyone who enjoys a good single malt, this island in the Scottish inner Hebrides (the most southerly one, just west of the Mull of Kintyre, and south of Jura) is essentially a very picturesque whisky theme park. There are eight working whisky distilleries on Islay – with more planned to open soon – which make the place a Mecca for whisky lovers, or just a very beautiful, peat-scented island to unplug and relax on for everyone else.

For whisky fans

There’s no denying the biggest draw here – it’s potent, amber-coloured and generally within arms’ reach at all times on Islay (pronounced eye-lah). Expect restaurants to pair meals with matching whiskies, distilleries to recommend ‘good breakfast whiskies’ or ‘hipflaskers’, and coffee to come served as ‘Gaelic coffee’.

An obvious starting point is a distillery tour, to better understand the fine tuning and deep science (or magic) involved in turning barley, yeast and water into something that can sell for £20,000 a dram, and turn, with terrifying ease, into a lifetime obsession.

If you have enough time (a long weekend with a car should do it – although finding a non-whisky fan to do the designated driving may prove tough), tick off all the distilleries on Islay’s list, building up a series of photos of the impressive facades at the same time; starkly whitewashed, with beautiful black 1950s and 60s fonts beaming each whisky’s name out to sea.