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Bowmore and The Devil
Winter is on its way here in Scotland. The evenings are darkening, there’s a thick frost on the ground and breath hangs in the air like a cloud. As we draw towards the end of October we inevitably find ourselves approaching Hallowe’en, the night when all the evil things of this world and the next are said to be abroad.
Many of Scotland’s distilleries have long, storied histories and serve as the backdrop to all kinds of myths and legends. There are tales of mischief and merrymaking, of heroism and romance and sometimes, there are tales that could curdle the blood and make the hair on the back of the neck stand on end.
There’s debate over the origins of Bowmore distillery with claims that it was founded even earlier than the official date of 1779. In any case, records show that an official license was granted to one John Simpson in 1816. The distillery was then acquired by blending firm ‘Wm. Jas. Mutter’ in 1837 and began to gain a fine reputation under their leadership. Not long after their takeover, however, the distillery would play a role in perhaps one of the strangest tales ever to be told…
The population of 19th century Scotland were a superstitious people and talk of a malevolent influence in troubled times was commonplace. The good folk of Bowmore were no different and the local church was constructed with curved walls in order that there be no corners in which evil spirits could lurk.
The winter of 1837 had been a particularly hard one. When the weather was at its worst, villagers would gather in the church to shelter and pray. One night, during the worst storm of the year, a strange shadowy figure was seen loitering to the rear of the church and when the glow of torchlight illuminated his terrible visage he was identified by some as the very devil himself. At first, frozen in terror, the hardy folk of Bowmore backed away but they soon steadied themselves and began to work together to harass the Beast from their church, chasing him through the village until he disappeared behind the walls of the distillery.
A search was organised and the distillery overturned, room by room… to no avail. Somehow, the demon had escaped. The people of Bowmore were dumbfounded. All doors and windows were locked and the building surrounded on all sides but one. The icy waters of Loch Indaal were the only escape route.
It was then that one of the villagers noticed the outline of a small puffer ship pulling away from the darkened pier. It was freshly laden with newly filled casks, bound for the blenders in Glasgow. Some believe the Devil escaped in one of those casks. Disturbingly, the steamship would never reach the mainland. Its exact fate remains a mystery to this day though it is said that on cold winter nights, down by the harbour, the sound of a horn can be heard in the distance and the water seems to slap as though lapping the side of a ship, floating out there in the darkness.
The Bowmore 15 Year Old is known as ‘Darkest’ and is finished in Sherry Casks.
Smell: Subtle, floral peat smoke. Caramel, lemon and lime. Honey and notes of sherry and chocolate. An enticing nose that draws you in every time.
Taste: Beautiful though perhaps less complex than the nose. Arrives in a burst of flavour with notes of honey and caramel. Peat Smoke and some rich sherry at the finish.
Thoughts: Bowmore’s 15-year-old usually retails for around £55. For my personal taste, it lacks a bit of texture, a bit of weight but there’s a good, bold flavour in the glass with a nice balance between smoky spirit and cask influence. Certainly not a sherry bomb but you can feel the impact of the wine. Arguably the best of Bowmore’s core range.
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