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 WW2.
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.
Production at Caol Ila
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.
Contact Caol Ila
Caol Ila Distillery
Port Askaig, Islay,
Argyll PA46 7RL
Phone: +44 (0) 1496-302760
Fax: +44 (0) 1496-302763
Distillery Manager: Billy Stichell
Visitors: Visitors are welcome after advance booking during April-October, Monday-Thursday. Admission is £4 and is refundable on purchase in the gift shop.