Bowmore distillery is the oldest on Islay and lies on the shores of Loch Indaal in the island’s capital. 1779 is often quoted as the year of the distilleries birth but in fact it wasn’t until 1816 that one John Simpson applied for a license to distill on the site. Of course, that doesn’t mean distilling wasn’t going on beforehand.
In many ways, the town of Bowmore is an odd place to build a distillery, what with the lack of fresh water. In actual fact, the distillery takes it’s water from the River Laggan – some five miles away. The water is diverted via a complicated lade that zig-zags across awkward terrain for a total of nine miles before it reaches the distillery.
This setup has not been without it’s problems. In 2008 for example, rain levels on the island were unusually low. According to the Met Office, just 16% of the average rainfall for the month of May had fallen. The outcome of this was a complete halt in production at Bowmore for a number of weeks until, finally, the rain came again. Fortunately, such low levels of rainfall aren’t something experienced very often in Scotland and Bowmore is thankfully able to get on with producing it’s spirit unhindered.
In 1963 Bowmore was bought by Stanley P. Morrison who would go on to acquire Glen Garioch and Auchentoshan distilleries before the Morrison Bowmore company would itself go on to be purchased by Suntory, uniting it for the first time with island neighbour, Laphroaig.
The Scores: About the Scoring…
Smell: 18 / 20. Floral Peat Smoke mingles with Berries and Tangerine, Vanilla, Barbecued Meat and a touch of Menthol.
Taste: 18.5 / 20. Salty and Beefy with Blackcurrant Jam and Red Grapes. Wisps of Peat Smoke are noticeable but not overpowering.
Value for Money: 7 / 10. Comes in around £80 which I would say is around average for an official 18 year old bottling and given the popularity and often escalating prices of Islay single malts this seems reasonable. Though I have to say, for me to spend that kind of money on a bottle of whisky, I prefer to get something un-chill filered and possibly a little higher strength.
Overall: 43.5 / 50. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. To explain myself a little, when I last tried the Bowmore 18 a few years ago I found it little more than an average dram given the price. My experience this time was very different however and I am altogether more satisfied. £80 is still a lot of money to pay for a whisky that’s been watered down to 40% but having spent a little time with it via a handy miniature, I have to say that a bottle has become more tempting to me. I often think of Bowmore as the peated whisky for those that don’t like peated whisky as the smokey influence is less in your face than some of it’s Islay cousins. Here, instead of assaulting the senses the way a Laphroaig would for example, the smoke is just one element of a well balanced whole.