Islay has woken up to the fact that its whisky distilleries are a major tourist attraction. Nowadays, just about every distillery offers guided tours, traditionally ending with a generous dram, and a refund (or discount) for your entrance fee if you buy a bottle in the shop. Phone ahead to make sure there’s a tour running, as times do change.
Ardbeg is traditionally considered the saltiest, peatiest malt on Islay (and that’s saying something). The distillery has been thoroughly restored, yet it still has bags of character inside. The Old Kiln Café is excellent. Guided tours regularly.
Bowmore is the most touristy of the Islay distilleries, and by far the most central (with unrivalled disabled access). Daily guided tours.
Rescued in 2001 by a group of whisky fanatics, this independent distillery is building a new distillery in Port Charlotte. Guided tours.
A visit to Bunnahabhain (pronounced “Bunna-have-in”) is really only for whisky obsessives. The whisky is the least characteristically Islay and the distillery is only in production for a few months each year. Guided tours.
Established in 2005, Kilchoman is a very welcoming, tiny, farm-based enterprise that grows its own barley, as well as distilling, maturing and bottling its whisky on site. The café serves good coffee, plus home-made soup and baking. Guided tours.
Lagavulin is the classic, all-round Islay malt, with lots of smoke and peat and the distillery enjoys a fabulous setting. Guided tours.
Another classic smoky, peaty Islay malt, and another great setting – you also get to see the malting and see and smell the peat kilns. Guided tours.