Islay, one of Scotland's 6 whiskey regions (Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Islay, Islands, Campbeltown), covers a very small area on the south west coast of Scotland. But do not be fooled by the small size of the region, because this small region is home to the densest, strongest and most characteristic whiskeys of the whiskey world.

The Islay (pronounced Ay-la) region, which is 2 hours away from the mainland by ferry, has a population of close to 4,000. With its almost untouched geography, Islay is home to thousands of species and an incredible nature. Agriculture, tourism and, of course, whiskey are among the most important livelihoods of the islanders.

Although not certain, some historians believe that distillation methods were brought to Scotland by the Irish in the 1300s. It is stated by different historians that these methods reached the Islay region for the first time in Scotland and that the event that led to this was the marriage of the Irish Ulster baron to the daughter of the Lord of the Isles.

Although the adventure of whiskey in the region started in the 1300s, the first licensed distillery, namely BowmoreIts establishment dates back to 1779. Once home to 23 distillates, Islay currently has 9 active distilleries. These:

  1. Bowmore (1779)
  2. Ardbeg (1815)
  3. Laphroaig (1815)
  4. Lagavulin (1816)
  5. Caol Ila (1846)
  6. Bruichladdich (1881)
  7. Bunnahabhain (1881)
  8. Kilchoman (2005)
  9. Ardnahoe (2018)

Credit: islay.com

If we look at the latest developments in the region, it seems that this number will increase in the coming years. Diageo is the legendary distillery that closed its doors in 1983 last year. Port EllenHe promised to reopen. Announced in addition to Port Ellen but never realized Gartbreck With the distillery, we can say that there is great activity in the Islay region.


Islay Character

It would not be wrong to say that Islay whiskeys have the most characteristic taste profiles not only of Scotland but also of the world. So much so that the whiskeys of this region have such intense notes that they can envelop the whole room even when the caps of their bottles are opened.

So what are these notes?

Islay whiskeys are generally known for their intense peat, soot, moss notes and dry finishes. (If in your mind right now “What is peat?” If the question arises, You may take a look at my article you can take a look).

Islay whiskeys, which many whiskey lovers may find too heavy, are undoubtedly not for everyone's taste. In fact, Laphroaig, one of the Islay brands, has a motto that describes this situation very well and uses it in his own communications: “You either hate it or you fall in love”. I think we can say that sentence not just for Laphroaig, but for many Islayans.

Although it is possible to talk about a general Islay character, the distillery's characters may differ depending on their location in the region.

For example, in the south of the island ArdbegLaphroaig and Lagavulin distilleries produce heavy, strong and medium bodied whiskeys with intense peat, iodine and salt notes. The main reason for this is that these distilleries not only use high peat-containing malt, but also use peat water from the island at every stage of production.

located in the north of the island Bruichladdich and bunnahabhain Unlike the south, whiskeys with a softer character are produced in the distillery. This is because peat is used very little or not at all. However, in harmony with the general Islay character, the whiskeys coming out of these distilleries also have mossy and spicy notes.

located in the middle of the island Bowmore and Caol Ila For distillates, we can say that they bear the traces of both the north and the south. While Bowmore offers a fresh character with peat and toffee at the forefront, in Caol Ila we see a complex character with peat, iodine, malt, salt and spicy notes.

As far as I have observed in my close circle and in the tasting events I attended, there is a great interest in Islay whiskeys in our country. Unless a large survey is conducted on this subject, of course, it would be wrong to say for sure, but I think smoked whiskeys are very suitable for Turkish taste.


Let's come to the definition of peat and its importance for Islay whiskeys...

What is Peat? What is the significance for Islay whiskeys?

We can briefly define Peat as a black, spongy hard coal consisting of decayed plant remains and moss. This description may not sound like much, but we owe the sooty, smoky and smoky notes of Islay whiskeys to peat.

To understand how these notes pass into whiskey whiskey production process We need to take a closer look at the first stage, the malting stage. To put it briefly;

malting stage starts with soaking the barley in water for 2-3 days. Barley that absorbs water softens and spreads across a room to sprout/germinate. The starch in the barley, which starts to sprout slowly, begins to turn into sugar. As you know, sugar is very important for obtaining alcohol in the next stages. This process takes about 1 week.

Then, in order to stop the sprouting of the barley, the barley is taken to a room with a giant oven (kiln) under it and dried. If peat is used in this drying process, the burning peat releases chemicals called phenol. These phenols adhere to the moist barley husk, giving the barley a sooty, smoky, smoked flavor.

The amount of peat in whiskey is measured by the amount of phenol in it (PPM - Phenol parts per million).

The world's most peaty whiskey, released in 2015 Bruichladdich Octomore 6.3. The PPM ratio of this expression is exactly 258. Let's give a few more examples to understand how high this ratio is:

Connemara 12 (20 PPM), Talisker 10 (22 PPM), Caol Ila 12 (35 PPM), Lagavulin 16 (35 PPM), Ardbeg 10 (55-65 PPM), Benromach Peat Smoke (67 PPM), Ardbeg Supernova (100 PPM) PPM).

Although the amount of PPM provides important information about the character of the whiskey, sticking to this number alone can mislead us. In addition to the amount of PPM, the type of peat, the way the alcohol is distilled, the maturation time of the whiskey, the type of barrel used and many other variables that we can add to this also affect the peat density in the character of the whiskey.

Dünyadaki turba reservinin %90’ının kuzey yarımkürede yer aldığı, bunların da büyük çoğunluğunun İskoçya’da bulunduğu söylenir. Yaklaşık 3,000 ila 7,000 yıl önce oluşmaya başlayan turba yatakları, ilk olarak ısınma amaçlı kullanılıyormuş.

It is possible to see the peat effect in the water resources of the Islay region, where peat is concentrated.

Due to its prolonged contact with peat in the region, many water sources are said to run brown and have the aroma of peat.

Although it is stated in some sources that this peat water is used to soak the barley, which is the first step of the malting phase of Islay distilleries, it is still a matter of debate whether this process affects the character of the whiskey.

Like peat, the climate of the region plays an important role in the character of Islay.

The fact that the region is surrounded by moss and exposed to strong winds blowing from the sea for 4 seasons enables Islay peat to gain mossy, iodine and medicinal notes.


After explaining the Islay region and its character, I will talk about the details of the 9 distilleries in the region in the rest of the article.

Ardbeg

It wouldn't be wrong to say that Ardbeg is the whiskey with the most Islay character on the island. Founded in 1815 and located on the south side of the island, the distillery is known for its expressions with intense notes of peat, soot and salt.

In 1997, with the help of the distillery, which has been closed twice (1981 and 1996) since its establishment.  Glenmorangie He grew up and bought the distillery for 7 million pounds. In addition, it has made some improvements to the distillery by investing 1.4 million pounds.

Markanın standart ekspresyonu 10 yıl süreyle eski bourbon fıçılarda olgunlaştırıp, %40 alkol seviyesi ile şişelediği Ardbeg 10. (My detailed tasting notes)

Some of the expressions in Ardbeg's portfolio are as follows:


Lagavulin

Founded in 1816, Lagavulin is among the most iconic distilleries not only of Islay but of Scotland. Lagavulin is a brand that is loved by whiskey lovers in our country with its intense sooty, peaty and fruity expressions.

It is said that 2 factors play an important role in the character of Lagavulin. The first is that the brand has the slowest distillation time in Islay, and this process takes place in pear-shaped stills that are synonymous with the brand. According to some, this is the detail behind Lagavulin's round and soft character.

The other factor is the water source they use. The use of water from the Lochan Sholum river, which is 200 meters above sea level and flows through the peat-filled hill, is also said to play a major role in Lagavulin's character during the production stages. on water supply Lagavulin and LaphroaigLet's also mention that we have been facing each other for many years.

Standard expression of the brand Lagavulin 16A very successful expression with a long oily finish in addition to presenting intense peat notes in a perfect balance with fruity aromas.

Lagavulin expressions and my taste notes…


Laphroaig

Located on the south coast of the island, Laphroaig distillery was founded in 1810 by Alexander and Donald Johnston. The whiskey production at the distillery started 5 years later.

Laphroaig is known for its expressions, intense peat and soot notes, as well as medicinal scents and oceanic character.

“You either love it or hate it.” / “You either love it or you hate it” 

This promise, which the brand includes in its own communications, actually tells us a lot about Laphroaig. Because Laphroaig really has such a characteristic profile that when you taste it, it is very difficult to make simple comments such as "it's not bad, I didn't like it or I liked it"... Reviews made with this brand are usually either very positive or very negative.

I would like to share a small memory about it. In a tasting I attended, we were tasting Islay whiskeys in turn. As they were generally a business-loving group, everyone was enjoying their whiskey. Order Laphroaig 10When it came to , half of the group covered their glasses with their hands and said that there was no need for service and they did not taste the expression. In fact, some of the people sitting next to the tasters were disturbed by the smell of Laphroaig and changed their places…

Laphroaig, Floor Malting It is one of the rare distillery that carries out its operations under its own roof. While there are those who say that this process has a positive contribution to the character of Laphroaig expressions, there are also those who say that it is only used as a marketing tool.

In addition, the use of peat water obtained from the Kilbride river in the production of whiskey is said to have an impact on Laphroaig's character. Although some experts state that water does not play a role in the character of whiskey, the number of those who disagree is too high to be underestimated.

Laphroaig expressions and my tasting notes…


Bowmore

Founded in 1779 by John Simpson, Bowmore has the distinction of being the oldest still operating distillery on Islay.

The distillery, which has changed hands many times throughout its history, is now Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch It is owned by Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd, which also owns distilleries. This company is also the Japanese liquor giant. suntory Let me tell you that it's in.

Indaal nehrinin kıyılarında bulunan Bowmore damıtımevi, Laphroaig gibi Floor Malting (Yerde Maltlama) işlemini kendi çatısı altında yapıyor, fakat bu şekilde marka ihtiyacı olan maltın sadece %40’ını temin edebiliyor. Buna ek olarak, Bowmore fermantasyon işlemini de geleneksel ahşap tanklarda (washback) yapıyor. Günümüzde birçok damıtımevi bu işlem için demir tank kullanıyor.

Considering all this, we can say that Bowmore has a traditional approach to whiskey production.

The expressions in the main portfolio of the brand are as follows: Bowmore 12, Bowmore 15 Darkest, Bowmore 18, Bowmore 25, Bowmore Legend, Bowmore Small Batch.

Bowmore expressions and my tasting notes…


Caol Ila

Founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson, Caol Ila stands out as the island's largest whiskey-producing distillery. Most of the whiskeys that come out of the Caol Ila distillery, which produces twice as much as the nearest distillery, are used in blends.

in the celtic language of Caol Ila “Voice of the Island” Let me tell you what it means.

Caol Ila (between 1930-1937 and 1942-1945), which closed its doors twice due to adverse conditions throughout its history, was completely demolished and renovated in 1972, and the only building remaining in its original state during the construction phase became the warehouse of the distillery. But despite this, they managed to keep many details in the production phase the same.

In general, Caol Ila, known for its fruity notes in addition to the peaty, sooty, oily and salty Islay character. The distillery also has peatless and soft expressions in the Highland style (Caol Ila Unpeated Series).

Caol Ila expressions and my tasting notes…


Bruichladdich

The Bruichladdich distillery was founded in 1881 by the Harvey brothers – Robert, William and John. The Harvey brothers, whose adventures with whiskey began before Bruichladdich, owned 2 distillery in Glasgow.

Bruichladdich, which has changed hands many times throughout its history, like many other distilleries, was founded in 2012 by a French liquor company. Remy Cointreau Purchased for £58 million.

Bruichladdich consists of 3 sub-brands: BruichladdichPort Charlotte and octomore

Since each brand has quite different characters, such a sub-brand distinction has been made in the portfolio. For this reason, it would be more accurate to describe each brand separately.

1. Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich, Islay’da üretiminde turba kullanılmayan ender markalardan biridir. Genel olarak çiçeksi, yumuşak ve hafif bir karaktere sahip Bruichladdich ekspresyonları, markanın üretiminin %60’ını kapsıyor (2017 verileri).

Here are Bruichladdich's prominent expressions:

Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley, Bruichladdich The Laddie Eight, Bruichladdich The Organic.

2. Port Charlotte

The Port Charlotte series of the Bruichladdich brand is a series dedicated to the Port Charlotte distillery, which was founded in 1829 but closed its doors exactly 100 years later.

It should also be noted that Bruichladdich plans to revive the Port Charlotte distillery and produce there at a later date.

Produced with 40 PPM phenol content, Port Charlotte expressions are generally known for their intense peat, sooty and floral aromas.

The prominent expressions of the series are as follows: Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, Port Charlotte Islay Barley, Port Charlotte 10.

3. Octomore

Octomore is a brand famous for producing the world's most peaty whiskeys.

Octomore, which launched its first expression in 2002 with a phenol level of 80.5 PPM*, has now taken this level much higher. Brand Bruichladdich Octomore 6.3 It holds the title of whiskey with the highest PPM ratio (258 PPM.) with its expression.

“Peat monster” Standing out with fruity, floral and marine notes in addition to its character, Octomore is a brand with very complex expressions.

*The amount of peat in whiskey is measured by the amount of phenol in it (PPM – Phenol parts per million)


bunnahabhain

Founded in 1881, the Bunnahabhain distillery is located on the north side of the island. in the Celtic language “River mouth” Bunnahabhain, which means "Bunna-haa-bin".

Unlike the general Islay profile, Bunnahabhain whiskeys have very little peat effect. For this reason, whiskeys from this distillery generally have a soft and fruity character. However, it is possible to get mossy and spicy notes in Bunnahabhain expressions in harmony with the general Islay character.

Another reason for the softness of Bunnahabhain whiskeys is that the distillation process takes place in huge stills and the filling rate in these stills is kept to a minimum. With these applications, the liquid in the retort is purified from the heavy molecules in it by making more contact with copper.

Standard expression of the brand Bunnahabhain 12, eski bourbon ve şeri fıçılarında olgunlaştırılıp, %46.3 alkol oranı ile şişeleniyor.

It should be noted that Bunnahabhain has a peat expression that is different from its general soft character (Example: Bunnahabhain Toiteach).


Kilchoman

Established in 2005 and one of the youngest distillery on the island. Kilchoman, which gives importance to quality rather than quantity in whiskey production, carries out the entire whiskey production process in its own facility.

Arpa yetiştirmeden su tedariğine, maltlamadan olgunlaştırmaya tüm üretim Kilchoman’da yapılıyor. Hatta markanın bunu vurgulayan bir ekspresyonu bile bulunuyor: Kilchoman %100 Islay.

The main expressions of the brand are as follows: Kilchoman Machir Bay, Kilchoman Loch Gorm and Kilchoman 100% Islay, Kilchoman Sanaig, Kilchoman Original Cask Strenght.


Ardnahoe

Finished in late 2018, Ardnahoe is the Islay area's 9th and youngest distillery. Hunter Laing & Co., one of Scotland's leading independent bottlers. The distillery was founded from the Port Askaig region.

Having a traditional production process with long stills, pine washbacks and worm tub coolers, Ardnahoe will produce whiskeys with a sooty character like many other distilleries in the region. The distillery uses mostly first-fill Bourbon barrels, with a small amount of Oloroso Hogsheads sherry barrels.

I'm looking forward to Ardnahoe's first bottling.

Credit: ardnahoedstillery.com


You may also like;

For other basics about whiskey…

Detailed information about other whiskey regions of Scotland…

Check out the smoked whiskeys at veviski.com…

10 Responses

  1. Bahadır SARICA

    Knowledge is a treasure that grows when shared.
    Bhartrihari
    Thank you for your hard work. Thanks to you, I have added information to my knowledge.

    Reply
  2. Artun Oden

    Thank you for your effort, I can say that I read it without breathing

    Reply
  3. Serhat Senkardesler

    If there is Laphroaig 10 perfume, I would buy it. It has such a wonderful scent. After the glass is finished, I smell the glass for another 15 minutes. The taste is also close to perfection.

    I won't be able to go without mentioning the presentation. When I first got it and opened the cover, the smell was strange to me too. But after trying it, my whole opinion changed. I find it useful to try, even if it is two sips, not ten judgments.

    Reply
    • & Whiskey

      Laphroaig is not an easy whiskey, there are many who love it as well as those who dislike it… But of course, we should give it a chance, many things that we don't like at first can change with our taste and we can enjoy it very much. Therefore, you are very right about the prejudice. Laphroiag perfume would be really interesting… 🙂

      Reply
  4. Bengi

    After reading most of the articles, you get bored. You have written a simple, fluent and informative article. I enjoyed reading it.

    Reply

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