Caol Ila Distillery Information

Caol Ila is the Gaelic name for the “Sound of Islay”; the narrow water separating the isle of Islay from the Isle of Jura. The distillery was founded at The Sound of Islay in 1846 by a gentleman named Hector Henderson, who also owned the Glaswegian distillery Camlachie. It wasn’t very successful at the time, though,  and the distillery was sold in 1854 to Henderson, Lamont & Co. In 1863, Norman Buchanan, who also owned the Isle of Jura distillery, took over and remained in control until he went bankrupt. By 1879, the distillery once again passed hands, this time to Bullocch, Lade & Co; whisky blenders from Glasgow (who at the time ran Camlachie). Bulloch, Lade & Co were quite religious and had a chapel erected close to the distillery. They were also responsible for a major expansion of the distillery in the 1870s.

In 1920, the Caol Ila Distillery went into voluntary liquidation, and sold to J. P. O’Brien Ltd, who resold it to the Caol Ila Distillery Co Ltd  (a subsidiary of Roberston & Baxter Ltd) in the same year. By 1927,the Distillers Company obtained a majority amount of shares in the distillery, and transferred the distillery’s ownership to Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. in 1930. The distillery was subsequently shut down, due to the crisis (and American prohibition), and remained closed until 1937. It again was forced to close from 1942 to 1945 (during World War II), but resumed production shortly after the end of the war.

It was closed again between 1972 and 1974 when almost the entire distillery was demolished (the only remaining structures were the unique 3-storied warehouses), and rebuilt to better use the limited space available.  The amount of still at the time was also increased from 2 to 6. In 1986, the Caol Ila distillery once again changed hands, and became part of United Distillers Ltd (now Diageo).

Caol Ila is actually the distillery on Islay with the largest capacity. It can produce up to 7 million liters per year, but has remained largely unknown, because most of its produce (though an un-peated form of it) finds its way into blends (particularly Johnnie Walker).

Caol Ila whisky

The core Coal Ila range all matured in 2nd or 3rd fill ex-Bourbon casks, and consist of the following:

  • 12 Year Old
  • Cask Strength
  • 18 Year Old
  • Distillers Edition; finished in  Moscatel casks.

The have also been some special releases:

  • 25 Year Old – 1978 ; Distilled in 1978 and released in 2004. Cask strength (59.4 ABV). Limited to 6,000 bottles worldwide.
  • 25 Year Old – 1979; Distilled in 1979 and released in 2005. Cask strength (58.4 ABV). Limited to 6,000 bottles worldwide.
  • 8 Year Old – 1997; Distilled in 1997. Released in 2006. Cask strength (59.8 ABV). 12,990 bottles available.
  • 8 Year Old – 1998; Distilled in 1998. Released in 2007. Cask strength (64.9 ABV). 9,690 bottles.
  • 8 Year Old – 2000; Distilled in 2000. Released in 2008. Cask strength (64.2 ABV). 5,664 bottles.
  • 15 Year Old – Flora and Fauna

Distillery info:

NameCaol Ila
Water sourceLoch nam Ban
Owned byDiageo

Caol Ila Distillery
Port Askaig
Isle of Islay
PA46 7RL

+44 (0) 1496 302760?

Visitor centreNo
CommunityClassic malts

Distillery Setup:

Mash tun11.5 tonnes1 (Steel stain, lauter)
Washback54,000 litres8 (Oregon Pine)
Wash still35,350 litres3
Spirit Still29,550 litres3
Expected yearly output in LPA (Litres of pure alcohol)3,500,000