Nestled in a hidden cove near Port Askaig, the Caol Ila (pronounced "Cull Eela") distillery sent its whisky to market by sea for over a hundred years.
For more than 100 years small coal-fired “puffers” like the SS Pibroch brought barley, coal and empty casks to the distillery, returning her whisky to the mainland through the strait that divides Islay and Jura, the Sound of Islay – in Gaelic, "Caol Ila".
That tradition has passed. And other changes have taken place – like when the old distillery became outdated and was replaced by a new, £1 million building in 1974. Craftsmen faithfully reproduced the six stills from the original design to ensure the distinctive quality of Caol Ila™ remained.
However, there are many things that have not changed. Caol Ila is the only distillery on Islay to face due east, and every morning the six stills are the first to feel the dawn of the day on their copper faces.
The barley used here is still malted locally at Port Ellen and pure spring water still rises from limestone in nearby Loch nam Ban, then falls to the sea at Caol Ila in a clear crystal stream, just as it always has.
Then there are the descendants of generations past who keep traditions alive. Billy Stitchell is the manager of the distillery and has worked there for years, as did his father, both his grandfathers and his great-grandfather. Their unbroken line is proof that tradition and expertise matter around here.
Stunning views from still house across the Sound of Islay. Sea-water heat exchanger cools process water before returning it to the condensers.