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The Islay Whisky Tour


If there is one thing Islay is famous for it is its world class whisky, and there are good reasons why Islay’s malts are renowned internationally. Whether your preference is for a robust, smoky whisky like Kilchoman Machir Bay or something smoother and fruitier such as Bowmore 15, there’s something for everyone and the quality of the product is never in doubt.


People come from around the globe to visit Islay’s distilleries, and it’s not hard to see why. In 2020 it had not been possible for the island to receive its usual numbers of visitors, which seemed to us a good reason to provide an alternative—philatelic—tour instead!


The island currently has nine distilleries and people remark on how a small island can sustain so many, but actually there have been many more historically: at the high point of the late 1850s there were twenty-three, only four of which now remain. Port Ellen closed for distilling in 1983, reducing the number to seven. However, in the last fifteen years Kilchoman and Ardnahoe distilleries have been established, plans have been made to reopen Port Ellen and proposals for new distilleries such as Gartbreck mean that the future is definitely looking bright for Islay’s whisky industry.

Many of you will be aware that the Gaelic word for whisky, uisge-beatha, can be literally translated as “water of life”. There are many who regard it as such and, economically speaking, it is the life-blood of Islay. However, the relationship Ileachs (Islay people) have with their whisky runs much deeper than this—they take a great deal of pride in something that is an integral part of our cultural heritage and Islay’s distinct local identity. Islay without whisky would be... well, like Vienna without classical music. It’s impossible to understand Islay without recognising the importance whisky has to island life on so many levels.

Our stamps depict the nine distilleries currently operating on Islay: Ardbeg, Ardnahoe, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. 

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