Caol Ila is
pronounced cull eela and is Gaelic for the “Sound of
Islay”. The distillery was founded in 1846 by Hector
Henderson and is beautifully situated overlooking the
sound between Islay and Jura. In spite of many changes
in ownership, the distillery has been in production
almost constantly since it was founded with the
exception of 1930 and 1937 as well as a period during
In order to meet an increased demand from the blended
industry, the distillery was completely remodelled
between 1972 and 1974. All buildings were torn down and
rebuilt except for the warehouses which were spared. The
modernization also meant that Caol Ila started to buy
their malt from the centralised maltings at Port Ellen.
In the mid 1980s the distillery introduced a new product
for the blended industry –the completely unpeated Caol
Ila Highland. Until a few years ago Caol Ila only had
one official bottling, but they have expanded their
product range and now offer bottlings of for example
Caol Ila 12 years, 18 years and a Cask Strength bottling.
The water is
taken from the Loch nam Ban, which is very rich in lime.
Port Ellen Maltings supplies the malt, which is smoked
to approximately 30-40 ppm.
Caol Ila have six very large onion shaped stills, all
steam-heated. The wash stills each hold 18 000 litres,
and the spirit stills hold 14 000 litres. The mash tun
is made from stainless steel and requires 11 tons for
each mashing. They have eight wooden washbacks, each
with a capacity of 30 000 litres. The single malt whisky
casks are stored in the old warehouses on site as
opposed to the whisky intended for the blended industry
which is shipped to the mainland for storage. The
bottling is done in Glasgow.
With their annual output of 3.8 million litres, Caol Ila
are the largest distillery on Islay.
Caol Ila Distillery
Port Askaig, Islay,
Argyll PA46 7RL
Visitors are welcome after advance booking during
April-October, Monday-Thursday. Admission is £4 and is
refundable on purchase in the gift shop.
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