《Wines of the World》The Whiskies of Islay

Picking up where we left off last time, let me talk about other famous whiskey distilling regions in Scotland.

Aside from The Highlands, another well-known region is Islay. Whether you like its style or not, it is undeniable that whiskies from Islay have a distinctive taste that really makes an impression.

Located in the southwest of Scotland, Islay is a small island with only 8 active distilleries ― Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, Laphroaig and so on.

It must be hard to imagine a well-known whiskey region to only have 8 distilleries. Why are whiskies from Islay so popular?

Unlike the other whiskey regions in Scotland, Islay whiskey is famous for its peaty flavour. All whiskies from the region carry a certain level of peaty flavour and drinkers love Islay whiskies especially for this reason.

If you have no idea what peat tastes like, imagine burnt coal with Chinese herbal medicine.

So why do whiskies from Islay have a peaty flavour? This is because the island has a rich reserve of peat soil, and distilleries will use peat-heated fire to roast the malt, bringing the peaty smoke into the malt, thus the peaty flavour and smokiness to the whiskey ingredients.

Therefore, whiskies from Islay have a robust and strong structure, and in addition to the peaty and smoky flavour, some whiskey brands will have a touch of salty sea water, which gives a distinctive taste and long finish. Due to their lack of any floral characteristics, Islay whiskies are favoured mostly by male drinkers.

Though all whiskies from Islay carry a peaty flavour, the level of concentration differs from brand to brand. If you have never tried or are worried about the peatiness, you can choose a lighter flavoured brand such as Bowmore, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain etc., all of them are relatively lighter in flavour and easier on the taste buds.

Bunnahabhain, in particular, has deviated from the mainstream flavour of Islay whiskies ― in addition to the peatiness and smokiness, it contains a touch of sweetness from pecan and dried fruits, producing a thick and smooth feel to the mouth. You can give it a try with a bottle of 12 year old.

If you want to try something stronger, I recommend Ardbeg and Laphroaig, which have a strong woody aroma and a rich peaty finish, guarantee to leave you a strong impression.

Next time, we will talk about another whiskey distilling region―The Islands.

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