Islay has just over 3,000 year-round residents, but in their midst nine whisky distilleries are thriving.If I'm going to drink a Scotch (which almost never happens), it would probably be Laphroaig. I enjoy the peat-smoked taste.
"I don't think there's many countries now in the world that wouldn't know about some of the whiskys that we have on Islay," said Mike Heads, manager at one of the older distilleries, called Ardbeg.
The Ardbeg mill dates back to 1921.
While some of his equipment may have seen a few updates over the years, he says the distillation process for a decent Islay malt has hardly changed a drop.
"The only thing you're allowed to use here is water, malted barley, and yeast," Heads said. "That's the only things we're allowed to put in the whisky."
The yeast and water are mixed with the barley, then fermented for a couple of days in enormous casks, known as "mash tuns," before it's distilled in giant copper stills and finally aged in wooden barrels.
But ultimately it's the malted barley they use here that really separates the wheat from the chaff.
Heads told Marx the peat smoke flavoring - measured at 55 parts per million in the malt is what gives it the flavor.
"It's the most heavily-peated malt of any whisky in Scotland if you look at that level," he said.
What's peat? A boggy kind of soil that is traditionally dried and burned as a fuel in Scotland's western isles.
Islay has peat in abundance, and peat smoke has long been used to malt (or flavor) the barley, creating its unique taste.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
The Heart of Scotch Whisky
CBS Sunday Morning visits the Isle of Islay: