Ardbeg arouses emotions amongst whisky lovers. Since the take over by the concern holding Glenmorangie (LVMH) its fanbase grew steadily. Every single new Ardbeg creates a hype in the wonderland of whisky and somewhere we are all guilty, including myself.

Ardbeg celebrated its bicentennial last year and so did Laphroaig. Contrary to Laphroaig they only released one bottle to celebrate the occasion: the Perpetuum which also was the annual Feis Ile whisky. Ardbeg gets the credit for having fans worldwide enjoy the whisky, most Islay distilleries limit their Feis bottlings to distillery visitors (and people with too much money buying them on eBay).

Ardbeg Distillery


  • Ardbeg Distillery, Port Ellen (Islay)
  • Owner: LVMH (Louis Vuitton - Moét Hennessy)
  • Production: 1.3 miljoen liter
  • Water source: Loch Arinambeast & Loch Uigeadail
  • Installation: semi-lauter mash tun, six Oregon pine washbacks, one wash still and one spirit still. 
  • Phenol levels: 50ppm
  • Pronounciation: [Ar-begg]

Feis Ile whisky

Ardbeg's Feis Ile whiskies are easily available. Despite being globally available, they are much sought after by "investors" trying to make easy and quick money by dropping them on auction sites. As a result Ardbeg has been raising the prices and their releases easily surpass the €100 mark. Taken into account all of their special releases don't carry an age statement and very likely never spent more than 10 years in a cask (or at least part of the vatting didn't).

Dark Cove was released in two different editions, just like last year's Perpetuum. One version was bottled as a cask strength and only available for the restricted Ardbeg Committee (counting 200.000 members or more).

The standard version is bottled at 46.5%.

Ardbeg Dark Cove 

Ardbeg Dark Cove
Ardbeg Dark Cove

Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release

Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release
Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release

Core range Ardbeg

Ardbeg core range
The only three Ardbegs that really deserve a place in your cabinet.
(Ardbeg Ten, Uigeadail, Corryvreckan) Photo credit: The Whisky Exchange

The core range is limited to three whiskies and are worth their money: Ardbeg Ten, Uigeadail (sherry casks) and Corryvreckan (French Limousin oak). The other Ardbegs like Supernova, Kildalton, Galilea, ... are overhyped fads and sought-after by collectors and bottle flippers.


Required reading?

A Peaty Provenance

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Bunnahabhain logo
Bunnahabhain started distilling the same year as Bruichladdich and just like Bruichladdich they mainly produce unpeated whiskies. The distillery is located in the north and somewhat remote. The only other distillery nearby is Caol Ila.

Bunnahabhain is Gaelic and means mouth or loot of the river. It hints at the river Margadale, the water source of the distillery. Also they have the largest - together with Glenmorangie and Jura - stills in Scotland.

It might seem a bit strange given the current whisky boom, but Bunnahabhain does not distill at full capacity. They produce approximately 1.5 million litres of alcohol per annum while their capacity could be upped to 2.7 million litres.

A few months ago a shabby fisher boat anchored at Bunnahabhain. The boat left in Brittany and carried two artists (amongst them the Slovenian/Belgian Mark Pozlep) on board. Their mission: sail the boat to Islay where it will be coopered into project Hogshead 733, two whisky casks made from a boat...

Bunnahabhain Distillery
Near the distillery you'll spot the remains of the Wyre Majestic. Photo credits: wikipedia.


  • Bunnahabhain Distillery, Port Askaig(Islay)
  • Owner: Burn-Stewart Distillers
  • Production: 1.5 million litres
  • Water source: Margadale river
  • Installation: 12.5 ton stainless steel mash tun, six Oregon pine washbacks, two wash stills and two spirit stills.
  • Phenol levels: 35 - 45 ppm
  • Pronounciation: [Boe-na-hav-een]

Feis Ile whiskies

Bunnahabhain Moine Pedro Ximenez 12-Year-Old

  • Peated Bunnahabhain
  • Unknown ABV
  • 2004 Vintage
  • Availability distillery-only
  • Price: £95
  • 9 years in ex-bourbon cask, finished in Pedro Ximénez sherrycasks. 
  • 833 bottles

Bunnahabhain Amontillado 16-Year-Old

  • Unknown ABV
  • Availability: distillery-only
  • Price: £250
  • 10 years in ex-bourbon casks and finished in Amontillado casks. 
  • 250 bottles
Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 2016 whiskies
Photo credits: Peter Alexandor Maclellan

Core range Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain gamma
The core range of Bunnahabhain is fairly diverse: from unpeated to peated to experimental wine finishes.
(Bunnahabhain 12, 18, Céàbanach en Toiteach) - Photo credits: The Whisky Exchange

The core range of Bunnahabhain is extensive and diverse. Most of the age statement whiskies (12yo, 18yo and 25yo) are unpeated. Others are heavily peated or a vatting of older unpeated malt and young peated whisky like the Céobanach. They also aren't afraid of an experiment with wine finishes or maturations.

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Kilchoman is the youngest distillery on Islay (for now) and the only one in private hands. The Wills family has been producing spirit since 2005. Until last year they were aided by former Bunnahabhain distillery manager John McLellan. He died on Easter Sunday following a battle with cancer.

To support the Beatson Cancer charity fund, Kilchoman auctioned one bottle of the very first cask of Kilchoman filled in 2005. The whisky was bottled at its 10th birthday. The bottle reached £7.000 and the donation was upped to £10.000 by people at the distillery and some donators.

Islays youngster is going strong. Their young whiskies are mostly stunners. Part of the malted barley is cultivated, malted and kilned at the distillery for their 100% Islay expression. The malted barley is peated to 25ppm compared to the 50ppm of the barley they buy at Port Ellen Maltings for the rest of the Kilchoman whiskies.

Kilchoman Distillery


  • Kilchoman Distillery, Bruichladdich (Islay)
  • Owner: Anthony Wills
  • Production: 200 000 liter
  • Water source: Allt Gleann Osamail burn
  • Installation: stainless steel semi-lauter mash tun, five stainless steel washbacks, one wash still and one spirit still, own malting floor and bottling line. 
  • Phenol levels: 25 - 50 ppm
  • Pronounciation: [Kil-ho-man]

Feis Ile whisky

Kilchoman Oloroso sherry butt 429/2007

  • ABV: unknown
  • Vintage: 2007
  • Output: 637 bottles
  • Price: £90
  • Exclusively available at Kilchoman's visitor centre 26 May 2016 
Kilchoman Feis Ile 2016

Core range Kilchoman

Kilchoman core range
The youngest leach family neatly aligned
(Kilchoman Machir Bay, Loch Gorm, Sanaig, 100% Islay, 2008 Vintage)
Photo credits: The Whisky Exchange

The core range of Kilchoman is based around the mainly in ex-bourbon casks matured Machir Bay, an oloroso matured Loch Gorm, a 50/50 vatting called Sanaig, a Madeira cask, a Vintage (2008 being the latest) and the 100% Islay distilled from barley grown and kilned at the farm distillery.

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Bowmore is the oldest legal distillery on the island. It was built in 1779 and can be found in the town with the same name. The company was part of the Stanley P. Morrison before being sold to the Japanese Suntory. They merged on their turn with Jim Beam inc. into Beam-Suntory.

Bowmore is the second best selling single Islay malt, after Lagavulin.

30% of the malted barley comes from their own malting floor. The rest of it is bought at Simpson's. Every mash consists of 2 tons malted barley from their own floor and 6 tons of barley from Simpson's.


  • Bowmore Distillery, Loch Indaal (Islay)
  • Owner: Beam Suntory
  • Production: 2 million litres
  • Water source: river Laggan
  • Installation: semi-lauter mash tun, six Oregon pine washbacks, two wash stills and two spirit stills. 
  • Phenol levels: 25ppm
  • Pronounciation: [bow-MOR]

Feis Ile whiskies

Bowmore Feis Ile

  • ABV: 54.9%
  • NAS
  • Output: 1.500 bottles
  • Price: £55
  • For sale from 21 May at visitor centre of Bowmore Distillery
  • Vatting of 4 virgin oak casks and 1 oloroso sherry butt

Bowmore Feis Ile 2016

Bowmore Feis Ile Vintage

  • 25 year old
  • 12  years finish on wine casks from French oak
  • 200 bottles
  • Price: £350.

Bowmore Feis Ile Bottle Your Own

  • 1999 Vintage (20 January 1999)
  • Pedro Ximenez sherry cask
  • Price: £100.
Bowmore Feis Ile
Photo credits: Peter Alexander Maclellan

Core range Bowmore

Bowmore range
All of the classic Bowmore lined up
(Bowmore Small Batch, 12yo, 15yo Darkest and 18yo)
Photo credits: The Whisky Exchange
Bowmore's core range consists of the Small Batch (replacing the Legend), 10yo Tempest, 12yo, 15yo Darkest, 15yo Laimrig, 18yo and 25yo whisky. They also have three travel retail releases for airports and other "tax-free" shops: Black Rock, Gold Reef and the 17yo White Sands.


Required reading?

But The Distilleries Went On - Ian Buxton

But The Distilleries went on

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A photo posted by Gert Claus (@tastydram) on
Laphroaig logo
The lands around Kildalton have been extremely fertile to grow legendary distilleries. Laphroaig celebrated its bicentennary last year with its close neighbour Ardbeg.

Laphroaig has been proudly carrying the Royal Warrant of prince Charles (prince of Wales). Although the prince's / pilot's arrival on Islay didn't went as smooth as planned that year...

The distillery is a bit of a misfit. They have an uneven number of stills and a working malting floor that yields approximately 15% of their needs in malted barley. The barley is mostly used in special editions like their Feis Ile whisky from last year.

Laphroaig Distillery
200 years old and still shiny white. Proctor & Gamble has been calling for the products they use...
Photo credits: Wikipedia


  • Laphroaig Distillery, Port Ellen (Islay)
  • Owner: Beam-Suntory
  • Production: 3.3 million litres
  • Water source: Kilbride Dam
  • Installation: full-lauter mash tun, six stainless steel washbacks, three wash stills and four spirit stills, malting floor. 
  • Phenol levels: 35 - 45 ppm
  • Pronounciation [La-froj-k]

Feis Ile whisky

Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask

This years Feis Ile matured in ex-bourbon barrels and was finished in Madeira casks. The whisky has been bottled at 51.6% ABV and (almost) as usual it does not carry an age statement. 

Core range Laphroaig

Laphroaig gamma
There's simply not enough room for every Laphroaig to fit on the family picture.
(Laphroaig 10, Quarter Cask,  Laphroaig 10 CS, Laphroaig Triple Wood)
Photo credits: The Whisky Exchange

Laphroaig's core range is rather large and mostly consists of NAS whiskies. The 10 and 18yo are permanently available. Last year they added a 15yo, 16yo and 21yo whisky to the range. The Laphroaig Select, Quarter Cask, Triple Wood, An Cuan Mor, QA, PX and Lore may sound fancy but are missing an important price indicator...

Required reading?

The Legend of Laphroaig

The legend of Laphroaig boek
200 years of Laphroaig - 1815 - 2015
200 years of Laphroaig

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A photo posted by Gert Claus (@tastydram) on
Caol Ila logo
Caol Ila is the biggest distillery on the island and at the same time maybe the most underappreciated. Most of its production disappears into Diageo blends like Johnnie Walker Black Label.

Most whisky distilleries like to brag on their heritage and hundreds of years of history. I challenge you to find the founding year on a bottle of Caol Ila...  You won't find it. The Classic Malts website speaks of 1846.

The current distillery buildings date from the seventies after a thorough refurbishment. They expanded from two stills to six stills. The still room overlooks the Sound of Islay - by the way, Caol Ila is the Gaelic name for the sound - and the Paps of Jura.

Caol Ila distillery
The view from the stillroom appears to be stunning. Too bad one cannot take pictures in Diageo distilleries...
Photo credits: Wikipedia


  • Caol Ila Distillery, Port Askaig (Islay)
  • Owner: Diageo
  • Production: 6.5 million litres
  • Water source: Loch nam Ban
  • Installation: full-lauter mash tun, eight wooden washbacks, two stainless steel washbacks, three wash stills and three spirit stills. 
  • Phenol levels: 30-35ppm
  • Pronounciation: [Col-eel-a]

Feis Ile whisky

Caol Ila 12 year old

  • ABV: Unreadable on the picture
  • Output: 1.500 bottles
  • Price: £99
Caol Ila 12 Feis Ile 2016 whisky

Core range  Caol Ila

Caol Ila core range
The rather small Caol Ila family
(Caol Ila 12, Caol Ila 18, Caol Ila 2000 Distillers Edition and Special Release Caol Ila 17 unpeated)
Photo credits: The Whisky Exchange

The Caol Ila core range is, just like Lagavulin's, rather small. The standard 12yo and 18yo are complemented by an unpeated annual Special Release and a Distillers Edition with a wine finish.


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Bruichladdich is Bowmore's neighbour across Loch Indaal yet more than a century younger. Barnett Harvey built the distillery in 1881.

Since the takeover by Mark Reynier and a group of investors the distillery flourished. They positioned themselves as a brand that preaches a terroir concept in whisky.

Next to the three whisky brands Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore, they also distill a gin called The Botanist. To do so they use the only remaining Lomond still - named Ugly Betty - in Scotland.

The past two years the Bruichladdich family said goodbye (but not farewell) to two born and bred Ileach that stood at the cradle of the renaissance: General Manager Duncan McGillivray and Master Distiller Jim McEwan. Now it's up to the youngsters like Adam Hannett to prove themselves.

Bruichladdich distillery
Bruichladdich's front yard. The still has moved to Mark Reynier's new Waterford Distillery.
Photo credits: Wikipedia


  • Bruichladdich Distillery, Loch Indaal (Islay)
  • Owner: Rémy-Cointreau
  • Production: 1.5 million litres.
  • Watersource: Octomore farm
  • Installation: six Oregon pine washbacks, two wash stills and two spirit stills, Lomond still (used for The Botanist Gin)
  • Phenol levels: varies
  • Pronounciation: [Brook-lad-die]

Feis Ile whiskies

Bruichladdich will release no less then three whiskies for their Open Day. Adam Hannett vatted casks from 2001, the year they resurrected the sleeping giant Bruichladdich. He also picked two casks of spirit that can be traced back to two Islay farms: Starchmill and Dunlossit.

Core range Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich core range
The first-string players of team Bruichladdich
(The Classic Laddie, Islay Barley, Port Charlotte and Octomore)
Photo credits: The Whisky Exchange

The core range of Bruichladdich is based upon The Classic Laddie, a vintage Islay Barley (the most recent being a 2009), the peated Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and the ultra peated Octomore (edition 7.1-4). Given the sheer volume of Bruichladdich expressions that have been marketed since 2001, collectors cry in despair...

Required reading?

Whisky Dream: waking a giant

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Lagavulin logo
Lagavulin is one of the two Diageo distilleries on the island and without a doubt the most legendary. The name is a corruption of the Gaelic Lag a'mhuilin and means "hollow in the mill".

The people at Lagavulin celebrate the bicentennial of the brand. Over the years it had a few notorious personalities at the helm. One of them was Peter Mackie, who tried to transform Lagavulin into a copy of its neighbour Laphroaig.

Peter Mackie built the now legendary Malt Mill distillery in abandoned buildings on the distillery site. The distillery was closed in 1962 and now houses the Lagavulin visitor centre. Did you know they still have one bottle of unaged Malt Mill spirit in the archives? Sadly, no one remembers how the whisky tasted. The name Malt Mill gained fame with the lead role in the Sunday-feel-good-comedy The Angel's Share by Ken Loach.

Lagavulin distillery
The white chalked buildings of Lagavulin Distillery - photo credits: Wikipedia


  • Lagavulin Distillery, Port Ellen (Islay)
  • Owner: Diageo
  • Production: 2.45 million litres
  • Water source: Solum Lochs
  • Installations: full-lauter mash tun, ten larch washbacks, two wash stills and two spirit stills.
  • Phenol levels: 40ppm
  • Pronounciation: [LAH-gah-vVOO-lin]

Feis Ile whiskies

Lagavulin presents two whiskies today. One is a 25 year old cask from 1991 bottled to raise funds for Ileach community works.

The other is an 18 year old single malt and a blend of refill American oak (ex-bourbon) and European oak (ex-sherry) casks.

  • 18 years old
  • Output: 6.000 bottles
  • ABV: 49.5% ABV
  • Price: £125

Lagavulin 18yo Feis Ile 2016 whisky
Photo credits: Lagavulin

Photo credits: Peter Alexander Maclellan

Core range Lagavulin

Lagavulin core range
The Lagavulin family
(Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin 8, Lagavulin 12 Special Release, Lagavulin 1996 Distillers Edition)
photo credits: The Whisky Exchange

Lagavulin's core range has been built around the classic 16yo single malt, a Distillers Edition with an extra sherry finish, an annual 12yo Diageo Special Release. This year they released an 8yo whisky to celebrate #lagavulin200.


  • It seems like I didn't review a single Lagavulin yet... Shame on me! 

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Bunnahabhain 13 Marsala finish
Bunnahabhain submitted a new expression to the TTB registry. The possible new whisky is a 13 year old single malt matured in ex-bourbon casks for 10 years and finished in Marsala wine casks for three years. The whisky seems to be a USA exclusive. Bummer...
Yesterday I posted an image of a Smokito on Instagram, basically a mojito where you replace the rum by a smoky whisky.

Some people asked for the recipe so here it comes:
Smokito with Bowmore Tempest single malt.

Preparation - "Cook" time - Total .

Yields 1 cocktail

Ingredients Smokito

  • 30 ml Bowmore Tempest single malt
  • 1/2 lime cut into wedges
  • 10 fresh mint leafs
  • 2 teaspoons rock sugar
  • crushed ice
  • a bottle of cold soda water
  • sprig of mint to garnish

Kitchen utensils

  • cocktail spoon
  • a sturdy mojito glass


Slice the lime in wedges and put them in the mojito glass. Add 2 teaspoons of cane sugar and squeeze with a pestle or the back of your cocktail spoon so the lime releases its juice.

Throw the mint leafs in the glass (Some bartenders claim the leaves release more flavour when you give them a clap with your hand...).

Push the mint into your sugar-lime mixture. Add a spoon of crushed ice, a measure of Bowmore Tempest single malt and stir gently.

Fill your glass with crushed ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Done!

Santé, schol, slainte, a su salud, à sua saúde!

Bowmore Tempest
The Tempest batch IV makes a lovely Smokito. Photo credit:

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