Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Known as "The Queen of the Hebrides", it lies in Argyll just south west of Jura. The island's capital and largest settlement is Bowmore where the distinctive round Kilarrow Parish Church and a distillery are located. Port Ellen is the main port.
Islay is the fifth-largest Scottish island and the seventh-largest island surrounding Great Britain, with a total area of almost 620 square kilometers (239 sq mi). There is ample evidence of the prehistoric settlement of Islay and the first written reference may have come in the 1st century AD. The island had become part of the Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata during the Early Middle Ages before being absorbed into the Norse Kingdom of the Isles. The later medieval period marked a "cultural high point" with the transfer of the Hebrides to the Kingdom of Scotland and the emergence of the Clan Donald Lordship of the Isles, originally centered at Finlaggan. During the 17th century the Clan Donald star waned, but improvements to agriculture and transport led to a rising population, which peaked in the mid-19th century. This was followed by substantial forced displacements and declining resident numbers.
Islay is one of five whisky distilling localities and regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law. There are eight active distilleries and the industry is the island's second largest employer after agriculture. Those on the south of the island produce malts with a very strong peaty flavour, considered to be the most intensely flavoured of all whiskies. From east to west they are Ardbeg,Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. On the north of the island Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain are produced, which are substantially lighter in taste. Kilchoman is a microdistillery opened in 2005 toward the west coast of the Rinns.