Caol Ila (2012 visit)

Situated on the north eastern shores of Islay, lies the Coal Ila Distillery. Looking out to Jura, and it lovely Paps. We arrived in Port Askaig late in the afternoon of the spring 2012, and decided to try to find the distillery. That was not so hard, just follow the signs all over… 😉

Coal Ila is situated on a beautiful location, but due to the strong winds and rain we went very quickly inside. It was also late, and hoped to get a tour first before looking around.

The visitor centre was brand new we heard, and with a little shop. Sadly we were not allowed to take pictures inside, and we even had to leave our camera’s at the desk. Normally you can walk with it hanging on you neck, but no, here they were very persistant about it… Too bad…. It is a lovely distillery with an amazing view when you walk around. Not a bad place to work we can imagine. Coal Ila produces about 6 milj. liters per year, of which 95% ends up in Johnnie Walker blends.

The distillery was founded in 1846, and was rebuild in 1974. They increased their production then with replacing the two stills with three new wash stills and three new spirit stills. Walking around we could see that it has more new feel to it, coming from the 70’s. They were doing some work while we were there. Just finished the store, and now doing some other parts. The time fur updating again.

We found this distillery to be the one with the less feel to it, no real charme… It was a bit cold to our feelings, bit distant. Coal Ila is the largest distillery on Islay and produces about 25% of the total amount of whisky here. They use the Port Ellen maltings since the rebuild in the 70’s. Sadly there is only a very little part warehoused, and not accessible, besides the distillery. We could not get it confirmed, but in the warehouse there were also the two old stills we understood, for backup… But not confirmed, as said before, a bit distant. Maybe we where just there on a bad day.

The majority of the spirit goes to the mainland to be warehoused. Water for the distillery comes from the Loch Ban Nam (Torrabolis Loch). The Coal Ila for Johnnie Walker is unpeated, what started in the 80’s and also is called “the Highland Coal Ila”. After 2006 they released this also as their 8 year old single malt. In 2009 there was a 10 year old single malt added with a higher cask strength.

After the tour we were presented with the 12 year old expression. Because of the works being done to the distillery and we could not see every thing, we had the choice to taste also an other one.

When back on Islay maybe come back on a less windy day to have a better look around.
We hope we can get an other feel from this place… Let see…


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