Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Well Stocked Bar X

"How solemn and beautiful is the thought that the earliest pioneer of civilization, the van-leader of civilization, is never the steamboat, never the railroad, never the newspaper, never the missionary - but always whisky!" ~ Mark Twain

To date in the Scotch sub-set of Well Stocked Bar posts we've covered Speyside, the Highlands, and most recently the Lowlands. This post is dedicated to Islay, a small island west of the Scottish mainland that has made a large contribution to the world of Scotch whiskies. These are also some of the most picturesque distilleries in Scotland, most being located on bays overlooking the cold sea.

Islay whisky is generally all the things Scotch can be in abundance: smoke, peat, and salt. The island once had 23 distilleries operating at the same time but the number of active distilleries is now down to eight, the newest of which, Kilchoman, opened in 2005 as the first new distillery on the island in 124 years. 2009 it will release its first whiskey having met the minimum legal ageing of 3 years in oak barrels. Kilchoman is preparing itself to be a definitive Islay whiskey as it's one of only six distilleries to carry out traditional floor maltings with barley grown at the distillery, something other distilleries don't do. Kilchoman single malt will also be bottled on Islay.

The oldest Islay distillery, Lagavulin, can trace its roots back to the 1740s. Lagavulin produces, at least to my palette, the second smokiest single malt available after Ardberg. The smoke comes from the process where the barley is smoked over a peat fire to stop the sprouting process, remove moisture, and impart flavor.

Other famous distilleries on Islay include: Laphroaig, Ardbeg (pictured above), Bowmore (pictured directly above), Caol Ila, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain.

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