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Islay’s main industries are malt whisky distilling, farming and tourism, which is largely supported by whisky and birdwatching enthusiasts.
Islay malt whisky is produced by eight distilleries on the island. The distilleries on the south of the island produce whiskies with a very strong peaty flavour. From east to west they are Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. (These three are considered to be among the most intensely flavoured of all whiskies). On the north of the island Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, and Caol Ila are produced. In 2005, a new microdistillery, Kilchoman Distillery, opened. The distilleries provide excellent employment for locals. The Islay Ales Brewery opened its doors on March 22, 2004 and brews seven different real ales.
The agricultural industry is still a good employer and plans for an island abattoir are in full swing. The location of Islay, exposed to the full force of the North Atlantic, has led to it being the site of a pioneering, and Scotland's first, wave power station. In 2000 this station became the world's first commercial wave power station.
Most of the estates organise fishing on the rivers and lochs and maintain the banks for fishing.
Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile (The Columba Centre) is an off-shoot of Skye-based Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig and runs a number of Gaelic courses on and off the island, employing Gaelic tutors and hiring musicians.