With 3,500 inhabitants and eight working distilleries—with two more due by the 2020s—Islay claims more stills per person than anywhere in the world. Yet, considering the island's size, there's remarkable variety here. Malts from the southeast coast, like Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, reek of peat and iodine. Peat is still the keynote of malts from the western distilleries, such as Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Caol Ila, but old-school aging in sherry casks gives these a lighter, more floral nose.
The Islay Festival of Music and Malt www.islayfestival.com, the last week in May, brings large numbers of whisky lovers to the island.
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