Whisky Magazine Issue 16
This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.
Copyright Whisky Magazine © 1999-2016. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.
To celebrate the launch of Scotland and its Whiskies, written by Michael Jackson with photography by Harry Cory Wright, we bring you an exclusive abridged preview of this definitive photographic exploration of malt whisky country.
As the ferry approaches the rocky shore, three great Gaelic names declaim their presence: Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig. They rise from the water's edge to the rooftops. On a bright day, the sun highlights the stark black type painted on the whitewashed outer walls of each of these famous distilleries. On a stormy day, the tides hurl not only salt but also seaweed against the walls. The atomized spray of brine and iodine fills the atmosphere, permeates the earth and occupies much of the territory, penetrating most powerfully here in the south, where the land quickly rises into a plateau of peat bog. The island once produced salt commercially by dehydration, but that was never its great gift to the world. Not naked salt.
Islay – variously pronounced ee-luh (by Gaelic speakers), eye-luh (by most Scots) and occasionally eye-lay – is by far the greatest whisky island. It is only 25 miles (40 km) long and 15 miles (24 km) wide with fewer than 4,000 inhabitants, but it has six operating distilleries, a seventh in working order, an eighth that survives only in the bottle, and fragments of more. Yet another distillery is on the adjoining island of Jura. Two of the distilleries have their own small maltings, burning the local peat. A third, much larger, freestanding maltings uses the same fuel, and to varying extents provides a supply or supplement to every distillery on the island. The three maltings dig from three different peat bogs on the island, each imparting a slightly diff...