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Issue 86 - The whisky island

Whisky Magazine Issue 86
February 2010


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The whisky island

Gavin D. Smith charts the distilleries of Islay.

Of all the whisky producing ‘regions' of Scotland, Islay has undoubtedly been the most numerically consistent since the Victorian era. When Alfred Barnard visited the Hebridean island in the mid-1880s, there were nine working distilleries there, just one less than today.

It would be wrong to assume that the ‘whisky island' escaped the economic vagaries that affected the Scotch whisky industry.

Since Barnard there have been two major losses, namely Port Ellen and Lochindaal, but an entirely new distillery in the shape of Kilchoman has been constructed to swell the Islay ranks.

Port Ellen (see WM63) operated between 1825 and 1983, though it was silent from 1930 until the mid- 1960s, when a substantial rebuilding programme took place.

Lochindaal Distillery was founded during 1829 in Port Charlotte village, on the shores of Lochindaal, initially operating under the name Port Charlotte Distillery. The facility was making 128,000 gallons of spirit per annum during Barnard's mid- 1880s visit, which compared with Lagavulin's 75,000 gallons and the 250,000 gallons being produced by Ardbeg at the time.

In 1920, Lochindaal's owners JF Sheriff & Co were bought out by Benmore Distilleries Ltd, and nine years later they suffered the same fate as many struggling distillery ventures during the hard years of the economic depression, being purchased by the Distillers Company Limited (DCL), which immediately closed Lochindaal.

The plant was subsequently removed, but some of the buildi...

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