As we fast approach the festive season, Simon Wittenberg takes a look at Bowmore, the first licenced Islay distillery, and some highlights from the brand’s range – the perfect gifts for whisky lovers.
Founded in 1779 by local merchant John P. Simpson, Bowmore is situated on the shore of Islay, the southernmost of the Inner Hebrides islands located off the west coast of Scotland.
For over 240 years, the scenic whitewashed distillery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean has used the finest quality oak casks, whilst employing traditional whisky-making techniques. These include producing their own floor-malted barley, which is hand turned by maltmen using traditional tools every four hours, and the fermentation process taking place in wooden washbacks.
Some historians believe the name “Bowmore” was inspired by a small black reef located just outside Lochindaal, whilst others reference “bogha mor”, the Norse for sunken rock. Today, the Bowmore name is the property of Morrison Bowmore Distillers – a holding company belonging to Beam Suntory, and their slogan that sits at the heart of the brand is “The Art of Time” – a pertinent nod to the distillery’s rich and long history.
Sitting at the heart of Bowmore’s award-winning line-up are the 12, 15 and 18 Year Old single malt whiskies, which provide the perfect entry point to the range. The Bowmore 12 Year Old (RRP of £37 and ABV of 40%), has a gentle peat persona, and offers hints of subtle lemon and sweet heather honey, before culminating in a long and mellow finish.
The Bowmore 15 Year Old, which we had the chance to try, is slightly more expensive than the 12 at £65, and carries a higher ABV of 43%. Unveiled nearly 16 years ago, and originally carrying the Bowmore Darkest 15 Year name, this is a truly delightful whisky thanks to being matured in bourbon barrels, followed by oloroso sherry casks.
What you immediately notice when this single malt touches your palate are the rich flavours of cedar wood and treacle toffee, the signature hint of Bowmore smokiness, as well as the swirling aromas of dark chocolate and raisins. With a rich and deep colour, the Bowmore 15 Year Old can be enjoyed neat or with a drop of water to accentuate the notes that lie within. If you’re looking for a great sub-£100-gift this Christmas, this is definitely a front runner.
On to the Bowmore 18 Year Old, and the characteristics are slightly different to the two aforementioned expressions. With an RRP of £105 for a 70cl bottle, and first seen in 2007 after replacing the 17 Year Old, this 18 is complex, but at the same time rewarding, and balances sweetness with smokiness, and delivers hints of soft fruit, creamy caramel and chocolate, thereby making it an ideal accompaniment to round off a Christmas meal.
For whisky aficionados who are also car lovers, Bowmore has partnered with the luxury Aston Martin car brand since 2019 to create a range of exciting expressions. The latest releases count the £65,000 ARC-52 and the comparatively more affordable second release of its Masters’ Selection series in the form of a £400 22-year-old single malt.
Similarly, if you’re passing through an airport during the holiday period or beyond, such as London Heathrow or Frankfurt in Germany, Bowmore equally has a global travel retail range as part of the Aston Martin collaboration, which features some of the carmaker’s most iconic classic models, including the 1954 DBR 4 and the 1922 GP ‘TT2’.
Bowmore – Where and How?
For more information about Bowmore and the distillery’s range of whiskies, visit www.bowmore.com.
UK stockists of Bowmore single malt whisky include Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange.
Read more news from the whisky industry here.