Islay: The Angels’ Share

We found the residents of Islay rather happy about the aforementioned rain. It turned out that they’d had a dry season of several weeks and a drop in water levels, leading to some distilleries having to reduce their production. Thankfully most were back to work, here’s some I had a chance to sketch in-between rain showers and touring and sampling.

This is Bowmore, one of the oldest on the island which like most of the others sits right on the sea, for deliveries of malted barley.

Then the malting house Kilchoman, the youngest distillery, where wetted barley is spread across wide floors and turned every three hours allowing it to germinate before being dried in kilns heated by peat smoke, giving Islay’s whisky its distinctive flavour.

Lastly and very excitingly, some drawings from the distillation room at Lagavulin -thanks so much to the lovely staff for keeping our sample drams topped up and for letting me get some sketching in shortly before our tour. A real privilege and an intimate experience, just me sitting in the Still room in front of tens of thousands of litres of fantastic whisky. Just under an hour was enough to capture the outlines of these incredible tanks at work twice reducing the whisky, whilst my nose fed on the sweet smokey aromas that turned and filled the space. These stills’ bulbous bases and long swan-like necks that dip low are particular to Lagavulin, bringing out its strong peaty taste. My own personal highlights: Bowmore’s 15yr ‘Darkest’ for its toffee tones, everything at Caol Ila, Bruichladdich’s wine-finished range especially the Pomerol and then the sensational Octomore, and Lagavulin’s 17yr cask and ‘Double Double’ sherry finished. Also chuffed to hear Lagavulin’s Warehouse Manager Ian believes women make the best whisky tasters as they’re able to detect more flavours… where do I post my CV? And the Angels’ share? The 2% of whisky lost through evaporation as it matures in oak casks.


Proof that I work on-site come rain, wind, or more rain.