Caol Ila is one of the Scotland’s biggest exponents of the European Parliament’s Waste Water Treatment Directive, launched in 2000. A 335 metre long pipeline stretches from the distillery out into the fast flowing waters of the Sound of Islay and safely disposes of Islay’s whisky production waste products, called ‘pot ale’. Other distilleries on the island send their ‘pot ale’ to Caol Ila, who dispose of 2.5 million tonnes a week.
Caol Ila Distillery
tel - +44 (0)1496 302760
web - www.malts.com
Tours through Caol Ila Distillery are available Monday to Friday all year round by appointment only.
Caol Ila's story
Caol Ila is the largest distillery on the western isle of Islay. It produces 3.7 million litres of whisky a year, but despite this it is relatively unknown compared to some of its more illustrious neighbours on the island. Caol Ila is located on the northeast coast of the island and means ‘Sound of Islay’ in Gaelic. This is the name of the fast flowing and narrow stretch of water that separates Islay from the island of Jura, which the distillery overlooks. Its location is remote and surrounded by rugged sea cliffs and caves on three sides but was selected for its proximity to an abundant water supply from nearby Loch Nam Bam. This water was originally used to power the distillery as well as in the whisky production. The current owners, multi national drinks giant Diageo, are running Caol Ila at full capacity as its smoky whisky forms the backbone to their world famous Johnnie Walker range of blended whiskies. They have recently started to increase the marketing of Caol Ila single malts and expanded the range accordingly, due to the world’s increased thirst for smoky whisky.
Caol Ila's history
The Caol Ila distillery was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson. He was formerly of the Littlemill distillery near Glasgow, before moving to Islay. It didn’t take long before he ran into financial trouble and after just six years Norman Buchanan, who was formerly at the nearby Jura distillery, bought him out and rescued Caol Ila. Buchanan himself was declared bankrupt in 1863 and the distillery was taken over by a Glasgow based blending company called Bulloch, Lade & Co. They were a deeply religious company and actually built a small chapel next to the distillery. Every Sunday, they would send a religion student from Glasgow to preach the gospels to the distillery workers and their families with attendance being compulsory. Bulloch, Lade & Co. carried out extravagant expansion of Caol Ila during the 1870s and all of the whisky was sent back to their Glasgow headquarters to be blended. Bulloch, Lade & Co went into liquidation in 1920 and the distillery was bought by a consortium of companies including Dewar’s and Distillers Company Limited (DCL, who over time have evolved into current owners Diageo). DCL later became the sole owners but were forced to close Caol Ila in 1930, due to the world whisky slump caused by Prohibition in the USA. It re-opened in 1937 but was again closed in the early 1970s, when everything except the unique three storied warehouses were demolished and rebuilt to maximise space on the cramped site.