Caol Ila

Caol Ila distillery

Caol Ila is located on the northeast shore of Islay, just a short distance from Port Askaig. Prior to the distillery, the site had been used previously for smelting lead from ore that was mined a short distance away. The distillery was built in 1846 by Hector Henderson. It was struggling to cope with demand in the late 1960s and was closed in 1972 for an expansion programme. It closed with two stills and opened in 1974 with six. Caol Ila was for many years used only as a component for vatted and blended whiskies, most commonly Johnnie Walker. It was only in 1989 that it became available for sale in its native form. It is now available in a young edition with 7 year old whisky as its base, a 12 year old and various finishes and limited editions. Each May a special release is made of between 1000 and 3500 bottles to coincide with Islay celebrations. Current production is 5,500,000 litres per year on a five days a week working pattern.

Tastings on this visit were a choice of two from five and I tried the 17 year old and a limited edition NAS (and bought a bottle in the shop). Tour guide Nigel. Distillery cat was called Sushi. Six stills currently offline and in a maintenance period.