It’s a common perception, particularly among new whisky drinkers, that all Islay whisky is peated, and all peated whisky is Islay.
This is not the case.
There is no Islay appellation defining the style of whisky produced here. Today, between 30 to 50% of spirit distilled on Islay is unpeated. Nor is peated whisky the sole prerogative of Islay. There are several Campbeltown, Speyside, Island and Highland – even French – whiskies that are peated.
Islay has remained a peat stronghold by default:
Firstly, for geographic reasons. In the 19th century the island’s inaccessibility made it too costly to upgrade to coal, like everyone on the mainland.
Secondly, for blending. A little peated spirit goes a long way in a blend. For the whisky trade there has been an economic incentive to produce this style.
Even though there are very successful Islay whisky brands, most of the island’s 15m OLAs of spirit is still destined for blending.
Unpeated Islay Whisky
Bruichladdich is not a peated whisky. This is now stated on the labels and tin. Any previous bottlings that contained peated whisky have been discontinued. Bruichladdich is now a peat-free zone.
However, we also distil some exceptional peated whisky, and this is now sold exclusively under either the Port Charlotte or Octomore labels.