Ever since I started drinking whisky, I have wanted to get chance to visit Islay. It is home to most of my favourite whiskies and also to the big, powerful, punchy flavours that gave me a glimpse into the vast flavour profiles that is was possible to find in the amber nectar. So, when I saw my birthday on the horizon, I jumped at the excuse to get a holiday booked. Whilst on Islay, I wanted to tour the distilleries that produced the drams that I am most passionate about and with only two days on the island and a little one to think of, I needed to be selective.
The first distillery on my list was Caol Ila, pronounced “cull-eela”, I wanted to visit for three reasons, the first was its location on the North of the Island, over looking the incredible Paps of Jura, nestled just along the road from Port Askaig. The second was its size, Caol Ila produce more than double to amount of liquid than any other distillery on Islay. Lastly, and most importantly, was the liquid itself. At least two of the ten best whiskies, I have had the chance to sample, heralded from this distillery.
We visited the distillery in an quiet period, where production had ceased to allow annual maintenance. This allowed us access to most of the distillery and the opportunity to take pictures in places that are not normally allowed. The tour guide was friendly, very knowledgable and was able to even interest my wife, who is less of a whisky fanatic and more of a whisky widow! To illustrate the tour and the process at Caol Ila, here are a few short pictures and I will end with a review of the experience.
Click on the photos to see them enlarged and read more about them, then click anywhere on the page to carry on.
This distillery might not be the most beautiful to look at, aside from its white washed warehouse, but it’s sheer scale is incredible. It sits in an incredibly beautiful part of the North of Islay and is worth coming to for the view across the water to Jura alone. Both in the shop and on the tour, we were incredibly well looked after and they were generous with their drams. We took the warehouse tour and tasting, which meant that we were on site for an hour, were taken through the whole distillation process and were able to try the five drams that you see above (Reviews to follow). As I mentioned before everyone all staff were friendly and couldn’t have done more for us.
For access to all areas, stunning scenery, lovely staff and great drams, we would give the tour 8/10.