Laphroaig (pronounced lə–froyg), is another Isle of Islay distillery, next door to Lagavulin, and was founded in 1815. The almost medicinal smoky taste of its whisky divides drinkers into lovers and haters, but those who love it are followers for life. The whisky is considered to be one of the most strongly flavored, and is the only one to carry the Royal Warrant of HRH, Prince Charles of Wales.
Bruichladdich describe themselves as “progressive Hebridean distillers” and produce an unpeated whisky – rare among the other distilleries on Islay. Dating back to 1881, much of the equipment is still the original Victorian. The distillery also produces gin that is made from “foraged island botanicals”. When visiting, be sure to take a tour and do a warehouse tasting – the atmosphere is lovely. Bruichladdich is not afraid to try new ideas or test out new techniques and as a result they are producing some very fine whiskies.
On the south coast of Islay, just up the road from Laphroaig and Lagavulin, Ardbeg is known for its heavily peated and high alcohol content whiskies. Opened in 1815, there was a brief period from 1981 to 1989 and again in the 90s when production shut down. But after production was restarted the new owners discovered casks of whisky dating back to the 1970s that they released as single malt 27 year old Old Malt Cask, resulting in an almost cult-like following of their whiskies.
2. Highland Park
Highland Park Distillery is the most northerly distillery in Scotland, up in the Orkney Islands. They are one of the few distilleries in Scotland to still use a traditional malting floor where the malt is turned by hand. They use a heather-rich peat which is believed to be instrumental in giving their whisky its distinctive taste. Rumor has it that Highland Park was founded by a local beadle turned smuggler – Magnus Eunson in 1798. Highland Park has one of the best distillery tours in Scotland, so the trip north is well worth your while.
Talisker is the last remaining distillery on the Isle of Skye. On the shores of Loch Harport with dramatic views of the Cuillin Mountains, Talisker’s whisky seems to take a special extra something from the brisk sea air. The distillery was founded in 1830, and after a turbulent century of bankruptcies, heydays, and finally a devastating fire in 1960, the distillery seems to have hit its stride in 1970, with many award winning whiskies since then. Their stills use condensing coils, called “worm tubes” to give the whisky a fuller flavor. A tour of the distillery ends in a round table tasting of five or six of their spirits. Robert Louis Stevenson was a fan, referring to it in A Scotsman’s Return from Abroad (1880) in the line: “….the King o’ drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Islay, or Glenlivet.”