The climate of the islands is distinct from that of the mainland by being maritime and wet with fierce winds. However, the winters are rarely severe and palm trees flourish in the more sheltered spots. Whisky is made on several of the islands, including Skye. Large quantities of illicit whisky used to be made on Skye since the island distillers refused to register for licences for the same reason as their West Highland neighbours; the difficulties of policing the areas and the favours of sympathetic magistrates meant they simply did not need to. Legal distilling was unattractive because of the inconvenience and expense of transportation. Also, poor soils and a wet climate made it difficult to grow large quantities of good barley on the island, so it had to be imported as did the coal required to fire the stills. Finally, the whisky had to be delivered back to its markets on the mainland. The only distillery on Skye is Talisker, which in flavour very much reflects its origins, having a sweetish, seaweedy aroma and a pungent, peaty taste with a peppery ‘catch’ in the finish.
Islay is 40 kilometres long from east to west, by 32 kilometres broad. It is the most southerly of the western isles being only a mere 20 kilometres from the north coast of Ireland. As a region, it is neither Highland nor Lowland. The rocky, heather-covered hills in the north and east of the island rise only to 460 metres and the southern part is a combination of peat moss and fertile alluvial plain. The whole island is often lashed by gales blowing in off the Atlantic, but it also enjoys a higher than average amount of sunshine. Port Ellen maltings supplies malted barley to distilleries on the island each of which has its own specific level of peating. All these rather extreme conditions go to shape what is regarded as some of the most distinctive malts in Scotland. They are seaweedy, iodine-like and phenolic. In fact, Lagavulin and Caol Ila are some of the most heavily peated whiskies produced. A dash of Islay malt gives an unmistakable tang to many blended whiskies.
IWSC – International Wine and Spirits Competition
One of the world’s most respected competitions, one that the Classic Malts always enter and we are delighted to have won many awards.
The more you taste, the more you find, the greater the rewards.