Close this search box.

Caol Ila Distillery reawakens to the beautiful sound of Islay

Fergus McCreadie and Barbara Smith

THE Isle of Islay, the world’s most famous whisky island, has a stunning new global visitor attraction as the fabled Caol Ila Distillery reawakens after a multi-million pound transformation.

To celebrate the conclusion of the four-year project, Fergus McCreadie – 2022 Mercury Prize shortlisted jazz pianist, whose music is inspired by Scotland’s coast and islands – created a special piece of music and performed it in front of the distillery’s incredible panoramic views.

Caol Ila means Sound of Islay in Gaelic, with the distillery taking its name from the stretch of water between Islay and the neighbouring Isle of Jura. The brand home has been designed to maximise the stunning vistas, offering visitors one of the best views of any distillery in the world.

Boasting panoramic vistas of the neighbouring island of Jura and its iconic Paps, the distillery’s  new bar area offers one of the most incredible views in the world of whisky and was unveiled by Managing Director of Diageo Scotland Brand Homes, Barbara Smith, at the official opening on Thursday 25 August.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.

Barbara was joined by Mercury Prize shortlisted pianist, Fergus McCreadie, who returned to Islay to join in the opening celebrations and play a piece of music directly inspired by Caol Ila – or, as it translates from Gaelic ‘The Sound of Islay.’ ‘The Sound of Islay’ is also the name for the stretch of water which separates Islay and Jura and flows directly in front of the re-opened distillery.

Fergus is recognised as one of Scotland’s most talented and original artists, bursting onto the scene in 2018 with his acclaimed album Turas. In July he was announced as one of 12 artists shortlisted for ‘Album of the Year’ and this year’s Mercury Prize.

The jazz musician, who is a graduate of Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and will go up against the likes of Harry Styles and Sam Fender at this year’s Mercury Prize, regularly talks about his love for the island and its influence on his music.

The new visitor experience is the seventh of Diageo’s whisky brand homes to be re-imagined as part of the company’s ongoing multi-million-pound investment in whisky tourism.

It completes a journey around the Four Corners, distilleries which are recognised as key ingredients in the Johnnie Walker blend and also tells the wider story of Scotch whisky and its origin story, establishing Islay as the place where the story of the country’s national drink began.

With a modern retail space and a bar featuring floor to ceiling windows, the visitor experience is a world removed from the traditional distillery tour offering.

Immersive storytelling rooms bring to life Caol Ila’s history and craft and tell the stories of the Four Corner malts (of which Caol Ila is one) that go into making the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker. Caol Ila also tells a wider story, that of the origins of Scotch whisky and of Islay’s place as the island where ‘the water of life’ began to flow.

Like each of Caol Ila’s sister distilleries across the Four Corners of Johnnie Walker, a unique Striding Man statue salutes visitors with a tip of his hat. A collaboration between local artist and craftsperson, Rosemary Fletcher, and her two daughters, Cairistiona Fletcher and Jessica May Fletcher, the Striding Man is inspired by island life, capturing the moody colours of Islay’s huge open skies, Hebridean landscape and vibrant seascape.

Barbara Smith, Managing Director of Diageo’s Scotland Brand Homes, said: “Caol Ila is the last of our reimagined brand homes to be unveiled and it’s truly something special. Islay is known around the world for its whisky and we’ve ensured that our visitor experience not only tells the story of the Caol Ila brand but also the major role whisky plays in the island’s history. The new building will offer something new and unique to visitors and also to locals who will be able to come for social occasions or just to simply enjoy the stunning views. We look forward to welcoming people from near and far now that our doors are officially open.”

Islay is also famous for its music with musicians of all genres regularly performing on or visiting the island for inspiration. Fergus McCreadie is one such musician and was the perfect partner to help officially launch the new visitor experience. He said: “I’ve spent many wonderful months immersed in this unique island and I’m always inspired by its unique landscape and beauty. The craft of distilling whisky plays such an important role in Islay’s story and this new visitor experience brings it to life in a new and exciting way.”

Along with Diageo’s other 13 visitor experiences in Scotland, Caol Ila holds a Green Tourism Gold Award – the highest sustainability accolated for a visitor attraction.

To book your tour, please visit:

The latest stories

Top 5 Scottish Whisky Distilleries to Visit, Study Reveals

As summer extends across Scotland’s majestic landscapes, there’s no better time to enjoy the nation’s most famed tipple at one

Sweet Dreams on Rails: Mackie’s and Caledonian Sleeper Launch Golden Ticket Giveaway

A sweet journey awaits one fortunate winner in a golden ticket giveaway launched on National Ice Cream Day, 21 July.

The Gannet and MacNeil Shellfish Team Up for Exclusive Scottish Seafood Feast

Glasgow’s acclaimed modern Scottish restaurant, The Gannet, is set to collaborate with MacNeil Shellfish for an extraordinary seafood lunch event

Pret A Manger’s Coffee Subscription Shake-Up

Pret A Manger, the famous British coffee and sandwich chain, faces a significant backlash from its customer base following the

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.