There is some debate over the origins of the Bowmore distillery. A gentleman by the name of John Simpson purchased a distilling license in 1816 but there are claims that whisky was produced on the site as early as 1779. It was under the ownership of Glasgow blending house, Wm. & Jas. Mutter who bought the distillery in 1837, that the Bowmore spirit began to gain a reputation for its quality, a fact borne out by a written request from Windsor Castle for a selection of casks in 1841.
Like many of Scotland’s distilleries, Bowmore halted production during the Second World War and its buildings were used to house the RAF Coastal Command. Coastal Command’s primary function was the protection of allied convoys in the Atlantic from U-Boat or Luftwaffe attack. They saw regular action throughout the conflict and completed over one million flying hours, destroying some 200 U-Boats along the way. A high toll was paid for their success however, with some 5,866 Coastal Command personnel killed in action.
One particularly tragic incident took place on the evening of 24th January 1943. Sunderland ‘flying-boat’ MK111 DV of 246 Squadron was returning to Bowmore from patrol over the north Atlantic. Weather conditions took a turn for the worse and an order was sent to divert the plane to Oban. Due to a communication fault however, the order went unheeded and the plane attempted to land, as originally planned, on Loch Indaal. Exactly what happened is unclear but the plane undershot the Loch and crashed into the coast at Blackrock. 11 of the 12 crew walked away from the crash only to realise that the rear gunner was still trapped in the turret. 8 men returned to free him but upon their arrival, the depth charges onboard detonated, killing the gunner and all 8 of his rescuers. Only the injured captain and two wounded men, left a safe distance away, survived the ordeal.
This is but one of so many tragic stories from those darkest of times. Peace (of a sort) would return to the world in 1945 and distillation recommenced at Bowmore shortly after.
In 1963, the distillery was bought by Stanley P. Morrison who went on to create Morrison Bowmore Ltd, which in turn was acquired by Japanese distiller Suntory. Today the core range comprises of a No Age Statement ‘Small Batch’, a 12 Year Old, 15 Year Old ‘Darkest’, 18 Year Old and 25 Year Old expressions.
I’ll be reviewing the standard 12 Year Old, one of the most available and affordable of the range. It’s bottled at 40% and usually comes in somewhere between £30 and £35.
Smell: Biscuit and Vanilla with Orange and Lemon and gentle wafts of Bonfire Smoke. There’s also an interesting Floral note in the Peat Smoke.
Taste: Honey and Vanilla with Lemon, Sea Salt and wispy Peat Smoke drifting in the background.
Value for Money: In the days of no age statement whiskies it’s nice to see Bowmore stand by their 12 year old expression and retain it’s relatively low price.
Scores: 42 / 50.
In many ways there’s nothing fancy going on here. No flashy cask finishes and no gimmicky marketing… Just well made, characterful whisky at a good price. Worth trying if you think you don’t like peated whisky as this is a different beast entirely from many of its more pungent neighbours.
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For a more detailed account of the Tragedy at Blackrock see the link below…