The Scotch Whisky regions, The Island of Islay (pronounced 'Eye-la') is the southern most of the Western Isles, and lies on the eastern side of Kintyre.
It is flat and green and very largely composed of peat - the water on the island is brown with it. Winter gales drive salt spray far inland, and this saturates the peat, which is dried again by the briny, seaweedy breeze.
All these characteristics go into the whiskies of Islay, to a greater or lesser extent and make this one of the main Scotch Whisky regions.
Islay whiskies generally reverse the characteristics of Speysides, tending to be dry and peaty. Behind the smoke, however, can be gentle mossy scents, and some spice.
There are eight distilleries on the island, all based around the coast and so open to the harsh coastal climate which plays a major part in the constituent characteristics.
These distilleries produce some unique and in most cases very strongly flavoured malt whiskies which are adored.....or hated. There is a rarely a middle ground with these Whiskies and it's one of the main reasons why this area is such a great and a beautiful Scotch Whisky region.
The southern distilleries of Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Port Ellen (the latter was closed in 1983) are the most powerful, producing medium-bodied whiskies, saturated with peat-smoke, brine and iodine.
Not only do these disilleries use heavily peated malt (50 parts per million at Ardbeg, 40 parts per million at Laphroaig), they use the island's brown water for every stage of production. Until they were closed in the early 1980s, Ardbeg had its own floor maltings and used to steep the barley in the same water.
The northern Islay distilleries of Bruichladdich (the 'ch' is silent) and Bunnahabhain ('Boona-hah-ven') are, by contrast, much milder.
These draw their water direct from the spring, before it has had contact with peat, and use lightly or un-peated barley. The resulting whiskies are lighter flavoured, mossy (rather than peaty), with some seaweed, some nuts, but still the dry finish.
Bowmore Distillery, in the middle of the island, stands between the two extremes - peaty but not medicinal, with some toffee, some floral scents, and traces of linseed oil.
Coal lla ('Cal-eela'), although close to Bunnahabhain, produces a delicate, greenish malt, with some peat/iodine/salt balanced by floral notes and a peppery finish.
So as I've highlighted, this is indeed one of the worlds most famous Scotch Whisky regions, producing some of the worlds most unique whiskies.
If I have inspired you in any way to visit then take a look at Rabbies. They are Scots and very proud of their country.