Islay a Scottish island, known as "The Queen of the Hebrides" is the southernmost island in the chain known as the Inner Hebrides. It is the fifth largest Scottish island and has just over three thousand inhabitants within an area of just over 600 square miles.
If Campbeltown was formerly Scotland's 'whisky capital', then Islay is most certainly the country's 'whisky island.' It is home to nine working distilleries, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Isla, and the two most recently established - Kilchoman, a 'boutique,' farm-based operation which commenced production in 2005, and the re-opened Port Charlotte Distillery in 2007. There were more distilleries in the past, Port Ellen closed in 1983, while the Lochindaal in Port Charlotte closed as long ago as 1929. Bruichladdich is also noteworthy as the only distillery which bottles its malts on the island.
Once principally used for blending purposes, Islay single malts have become extremely fashionable during the past couple of decades, with Ardbeg, Bowmore, Lagavulin and Laphroaig all gaining something approaching cult status with drinkers. One of the great recent success stories of Islay has been the renaissance of Bruichladdich distillery since its re-opening in 2001 after several years of silence.
Islays are generally regarded as the most assertive and distinctive of all Scotch malt whiskies, noted for their peaty and medicinal character, though there are great stylistic differences between the Kildalton distilleries of the southern Islay shore (Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin) and the gentler, less dominant malts from further north on the island, including Caol Ila and the gentle and very lightly peated Bunnahabhain.