Olli Thomson

Whisky Island

In an attempt to escape the heat of Manila for a little while we recently took a break to the UK. After a stopover in London we headed for the island of Islay, one of the Inner Hebrides, situated off the west coast of Scotland. It’s hard to imagine a place more different from Manila. The biggest town, Bowmore, has a population of around 800 out of a total of just over 3,000. Even with the glorious early autumn weather we enjoyed while there which saw temperatures of 17 or 18C, it felt wonderfully cool compare to Manila’s usual temperatures in the 30s. The vivid warm sunsets over Manila Bay gave way to that beautiful silver, grey, blue light that I mentioned in an earlier post. That light lasted into the evening as dusk fell gently, unlike the rapid transitions we experience in Manila.

Pleasant as all that was, one of the main reasons for choosing Islay as a destination is the island’s reputation as a producer of very fine whisky. There are no fewer than eight distilleries on the island and in years past there were even more. After a period when it seemed the future for distilling was bleak, most of those that have survived are expanding. One new distillery, Kilchoman, opened around ten years ago, while another, Gartbreck, is planned to open next year. We managed to visit all eight distilleries during our time on the island, though since one, Caol Isla, was closed for maintenance we weren’t able to tour it. When not visiting distilleries Isla is a wonderful place for photography and, at some point, I’ll be creating a gallery of images from the island. In the meantime, here are Islay’s working distilleries (minus Kilchoman which I apparently forgot to take a picture of).


Caol Isla






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