The Islands as an unofficial whisky producing region includes Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney and Skye. These islands – hidden away amongst 800 islands off the coast of mainland Scotland – represented a real opportunity for distillers in the days of illegal whisky production, with easy access for smuggling in materials and smuggling out the finished product.
Of the current active distilleries, Highland Park is the oldest, dating back to 1798 by an illicit distiller and smuggler, Magnus Eunson, a colourful character who also worked as a butcher and church officer. The reality is that the distillery was active long before that year, but it was its official founding date as that’s when Eunson got caught by the authorities and was forced to start paying taxes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given their disparate locations all around the north and east of Scotland, the whiskies produced by distilleries on The Islands are highly varied in flavours with the only unifying factor being that they are generally smoky and peaty, with a briny note that echoes their coastal locations.