The Caol Ila distillery
To reach Caol Ila, turn left just before the elegant Port Askaig and venture down the small, sloping road that snakes its way to the bottom of the hill. Many visitors would like to live permanently on the shore of Caol Ila, which is separated from Jura by a sound not much larger than a wide river but impossible to cross on stormy days.
Admittedly, the distillery’s cubic buildings are somewhat lacking in charm, but its imposing still room benefits from a stunning view of the pink heather moors of Jura. And when a rainbow spans across two banks, a stunning metamorphosis takes place.
The distillery was completely rebuilt in 1972, the kiln was razed and between 1972 and 1974 and the number of stills was increased from two to six. These onion-shaped stills are absolutely enormous with wide, long lyne arms, but in order to encourage reflux they are only ever filled halfway. The distillery’s peated barley comes from the maltings at Port Ellen.
Caol Ila also produces an unpeated malt. Original destined for blends, it is today available as a single malt, much to the delight of its fans. Caol Ila is by far the most productive distillery on Islay. Almost all of its production is carried by tanker and ferry to the mainland for maturation in the bonded warehouses of the Diageo group, which are often located far from the sea. However, even if this single malt never experiences the iodine air of Islay, it cannot hide its marine origins.
In recent years the range of official bottlings available has been hugely increased. A wide range of releases of Caol Ila can also be found through independent bottlers. This Islay malt, which is extremely popular with master blenders, is also a favourite of many malt enthusiasts. Perhaps because of its rainbow-like aromatic profile?