Islay whisky is Scotch whisky produced on Islay, one of the Inner Hebridean Islands off the west coast of Scotland. Islay is one of five whisky distilling regions and localities in Scotland whose identities are legally protected.
Whiskies with a peat smoke aroma, such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, characterize the region. There are nine active distilleries on this 25-by-15-mile-long island, and the industry is Islay's second largest employer after agriculture. Every year in the last week of May, Islay hosts a "Festival of Malt and Music" known as Fèis Ìle, with events and tastings celebrating the island's cultural heritage.
"Islay’s past is pervaded by innumerable tales of home distilling, smuggling and illegal whisky production" and adds that the eight older distilleries all began as small, illicit producers. Since grain was supplied by boat and finished whisky was shipped by water, all were constructed close to water. Whisky was traditionally matured in sherry casks for centuries, although today, American bourbon casks are also often utilized.
Whiskies from this island are usually known for a "pungent peaty, smoky and oily flavours, with just a hint of salty sea air and seaweed" because of the use of peat and the maritime climate.
There are currently 9 active distilleries on Islay (not including the legendary Port Ellen that was closed but scheduled to re-open).