The Best Smoky Islay Whiskies To Drink This Fall


On the western coast of Scotland sits the island of Islay. The southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, Islay is home to 3,000 people, a lot of sheep, and eight whisky distilleries. This includes famed whisky producers Ardbeg, Lagavulin (Nick Offerman’s favorite distillery), Laphroaig, and Bruichladdich. There are five official (and one unofficial) whisky regions in Scotland. Islay is one of these official regions and is most well-known for a unique flavor that few other distilleries in Scotland feature: Peatiness.

The whisky produced on Islay has a distinct smoky flavor. It gets this from smoked peat — essentially slabs of soil — that is cut and dried before it’s added to kilns in the distilleries to add a smoky, rich flavor to the grains and eventually the whisky itself. The best way to get started enjoying Islay whiskies is by drinking some of the best. You’ll find our favorites below.

Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask

This recent release from Laphroaig features multiple different aged whiskies. This mixture is then matured for five years in new bourbon barrels. Afterwards, the whisky is matured for a second time for six months in quarter casks. The result is a well-balanced whisky with vanilla and caramel sweetness, followed by a thick smoke presence.

Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4

The result of adding one of its smokiest whiskies ever at 167 ppm (parts per million) to virgin oak casks, Octomore 7.4 is sweet and full of toasted caramel flavors, but is also full of the rich, smoky flavor Bruichladdich fans have grown to expect from the Port Charlotte distillery. Definitely not for peat smoke whisky novices.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

You can’t make a list of Islay whiskies without adding one from Lagavulin. Nick Offerman’s favorite distillery makes a wide selection of whiskies worthy of this list, but its 16 Year Old really stands out from the crowd. This whisky is heavy on the peat smoke, but it’s tempered by a mixture of oak, malt, and sherry-sweetness worthy of tender-hearted Ron Swanson himself.

Bowmore Small Batch

This is one of the best gateway whiskies for bourbon fans. That’s because this Islay single malt is matured in both first-fill as well as second-fill bourbon barrels. That’s an awful lot of bourbon sweetness mingling with smoky, Islay whisky.

Ardbeg an Oa

The newest release from the popular Islay distillery, an Oa is also one of its most approachable. Technically, an Oa is actually one of Ardbeg’s smokiest whiskies, but it’s rounded out by being aged in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The result is a balanced whisky with subtle tea notes, dried fruit, with a spicy, smoky finish

Kilchoman Machir Bay

Like many of the whiskies produced on Islay, Machir Bay is name for a popular landmark of the same name. What makes this bottle unique is the fact that it’s made from a combination of bourbon and Oloroso sherry-aged whiskies. This gives the award-winning whisky a complex, sweet, rich, smoky flavor.

Launched in 2002. Call Ila 12 is light yet full of flavor with a blast of smoke. This entry-level whisky is herbal and sweet with hints of pepper and a finish like a hand-rolled cigar. It’s a warming whisky that is perfect for a chilly, fall evening.

Ardbeg Uigeadail

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Dram of the Day: Ardbeg Uigeadail This is a heavily peated whisky that is distilled, aged and bottled by the magnificent Ardbeg distillery on the South coast of the Scottish isle of Islay. It has been aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks which adds raisiny sherry notes to the traditional Ardbeg flavour profile. It is bottled at 54,2% ABV, is non-chillfiltered, and free of artificial colouring. It was given 97.5/100 points by whisky writer Jim Murray, which is the highest score ever given by Jim Murray. Out of approximately 5,000 different whiskies, this score has been given to only a handful of whiskies. Nose: Peat smoke, raisins, dark chocolate, strong maltiness, coastal, leathery, vanilla. Sweet, strong and peaty. As it opens up and as you get used to the smoke, the sherry influence/raisiny notes become stronger. Even more so if you add some cool water. Palate: Powerful, thick, oily, peat smoke, sweetness, peppery, dark chocolate, very malty. Finish: Smoky (it reminds me of Lapsang Souchong tea), malty and sweet, raisins, vanilla, creamy. Long in length. The finish just goes on and on. This is one of my favorite drams. I like Uigeadail about as much as Corryvreckan but I prefer Uigeadail over Ten. I love how its peaty and malty notes combine with the raisin/dried fruit notes from the sherry casks. It is very powerful and rich in flavour. An excellent whisky. #whisky #whiskey #scotchwhisky #scotch #islaywhisky #islaysinglemalt #islaysinglemaltscotchwhisky #singlemalt #singlemaltwhisky #singlemaltscotch #singlemaltscotchwhisky #scottish #scotland #islay #malt #ardbeg #ardbeguigeadail #ardbegwhisky #peat #peatywhisky #peatedwhisky #peatbomb #dram #drinking #drink #glencairn #glencairnglass #islaymalt

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Named as the “Wold Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2009, Uigeadail is made by combining whiskies matured in casks that formerly aged sherry and bourbon. This gives the whisky a variety of flavors, including: honey, spices, dried fruits, orange peel, and vanilla. This is all paired with heavy dose of smoke, making for one of the most balanced Islay whiskies on the market.