A small region, with serious significance...
It may only be a small island on the west coast of Scotland with 3,000 inhabitants, but where it may lack in physical stature, it makes up for in its whisky heritage.
Islay is known around the world as an iconic single malt region. Bowmore is known as the first distillery on Islay, established in 1779. Distilleries were first introduced in Islay to take advantage of the island's ability to produce barley in abundance; because of the softness of its water; and the copious amounts of peat needed during the malting process. This is what has given Islay their recognisable smoky, peaty style of whisky.
Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Kilchoman, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Ardnahoe (their newest distillery, opened in 2019) make up Islay's nine active distilleries.
Islay's distilleries can be distinguished by the level of peat used. The 'Big Three' are Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig who all produce very powerful and super smoky whiskies. Kilchoman would also fall into this category now. Holding prominence in the middle ground are Bowmore and Caol Ila with less harsh releases, and the whiskies produced at Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain are in peat terms, the lightest and smoothest.
Port Ellen is a renowned Islay distillery which closed in 1983. Despite being relatively unsung when in operation, since closing it's reputation has exploded, with their whiskies considered as some of the most valuable in the world. Port Ellen's buildings are still in use as a malthouse.