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Issue 22 - A sense of Islay

Whisky Magazine Issue 22
May 2002


This article is 16 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.

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A sense of Islay

Martine Nouet takes a scent and taste tour of whisky's most famous island as a preview for the forthcoming Islay Whisky Festival 2002

Wherever you arrive from, by boat or by plane, the first buildings to come into view are the distilleries, their names in black block letters strongly contrasting with the whitewashed walls. With its seven (soon to be eight) distilleries, the isle of Islay is indisputably a Mecca for whisky enthusiasts. No wonder though, if the still-young but already world-famous Islay Whisky Festival attracts around a thousand visitors during the last week of May.

Not all of them are whisky ‘freaks' though. You do not have to be a malt aficionado to fall under the charm of the Queen of the Hebrides, for Islay is a magical place with its stunning seascapes offering spectacular cliffs and miles of sandy beaches, its fascinating historical background and abundant wildlife, and most important, the Ileachs, a community of 4,000 warm and friendly souls who make your holiday on Islay so special. The magic has been so effective in my case that I bought a cottage there. Could a whisky writer dream of a more ideal haven?

No matter how devoted you are to whisky and how busy your whisky schedule will be during the Festival, you must take time to follow the lazy path and discover the beauty of Islay. Mind you, you will still encounter uisge beatha if you take a walk on the fragrant side. First of all, open up your nostrils and nose Islay.

On arrival at Port Ellen harbour, the first smell to strike a non-local nose is that pungent smoky fragrance enhanced by a wet root earthy note. It comes from the...

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