Whisky Regions

The Islands

The Islands is Scotland’s lesser known whisky region, forming part of the Highlands and while it may not be officially recognised by some, other sources indicate that it does, in fact, constitute a sixth distinct region, excluding Islay.
Here’s everything you need to know about The Islands whisky.


The Islands as an unofficial whisky producing region includes Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney and Skye. These islands – hidden away amongst 800 islands off the coast of mainland Scotland – represented a real opportunity for distillers in the days of illegal whisky production, with easy access for smuggling in materials and smuggling out the finished product.

Of the current active distilleries, Highland Park is the oldest, dating back to 1798 by an illicit distiller and smuggler, Magnus Eunson, a colourful character who also worked as a butcher and church officer. The reality is that the distillery was active long before that year, but it was its official founding date as that’s when Eunson got caught by the authorities and was forced to start paying taxes.

The Islands Whiskies

Perhaps unsurprisingly given their disparate locations all around the north and east of Scotland, the whiskies produced by distilleries on The Islands are highly varied in flavours with the only unifying factor being that they are generally smoky and peaty, with a briny note that echoes their coastal locations.

Some of the main distilleries on The Islands include:
Highland Park Distillery - The oldest distillery in this region and also Scotland’s most northerly (previously also the most northerly in the world), Highland Park sits on Orkney and is proud of its Viking roots. Its single malts are amongst the most popular and acclaimed, regularly drawing high prices at auctions.
Arran Distillery - The isle of Arran previously had around 50 illegal distilleries and the last legal one had closed in 1837 before Arran Distillery opened up in 1995. Despite being a relative newcomer on the market, Arran has certainly made an impression, not least by being the only whisky distillery able to use the image and signature of Scottish legend Robert Burns on their packaging.
Abhainn Dearg Distillery - Scotland’s most westerly distillery, Abhainn Dearg (Gaelic for ‘Red River’) is also one of the newest, founded in 2008, making it the first on the Outer Hebrides since Shoeburn Distillery closed in 1844. Its single malts are aged in ex Sherry and Bourbon casks and its 10-Year-Old is the oldest whisky to be produced by a legal distillery in the Outer Hebrides.
Talisker Distillery - Founded on Skye by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill in 1830, Talisker is the largest producer of whisky on The Islands with a capacity of 2.6m litres.
Jura Distillery - This distillery has had a chequered history since being founded in 1810 by the Laird of Jura, Archibald Campbell. Around the end of the 19th Century, it twice fell into disrepair and needed to be restored and was eventually rebuilt in the 1960s.
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