Bowmore

   

Bowmore distillery was founded in 1779 and sits on the shore of Loch Indaal, Islay. It was Islay's first (legal) distillery and is one of the oldest in Scotland.

In the mid-1920's it was purchased by Sherriff's Bowmore Distillery Ltd and then, when offered for sale in 1950, purchased by William Grigor & Sons.

It was sold again in 1963, this time to Stanley Morrison Ltd and then in 1994 Suntory purchased or took over Bowmore's parent company to become the new owners.

Distillery photo by Mick Garatt, via Wikimedia Creative Commons License

 
 

Bowmore is one of the very few distilleries to still utilise their own floor maltings at the distillery and they even hand turn the balrey with the traditional wooden malt shovel.

The No.1 Vaults, their largest warehouse, is actually below sea level, giving a true meaning to the concept of "Teroir".

General whisky characteristics: Heather, light smoke and just a touch of The Atlantic

 

 
 

More great distillery info here, thanks to Malt Madness

 

Bowmore malting by Whisky Emporium photography

 

 

     

Bowmore,  1966, 40y

Let's start with the really serious one, voted my No. 3 favourite whisky of all time.

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ to €€€€€

 
 

Colour: Light golden honey

Nose: Wow, here is my first surprise; It has some hints of iodine and even horse stables ( ), but in a very pleasant way! There's a dryness on the nose too, along with something almost akin to butterscotch. I keep wanting to say honey too, but not any normal honey. This is quite similar to a rather special honey which I recently had the pleasure of sampling and cooking with, thanks to a famous TV chef who took over my kitchen for one evening, a while ago. If ever you get the chance to try "Tasmanian Leatherwood honey" please do so. This Bowmore really reminds me of it!

Palate: Here goes ....... I have been looking forward to this for a few days now ....... Errrrmmmmm .... initially not at all what I expected! Are you ready for this? The initial flavour was one of Sunday lunch, to be exact ... Roast Pork! Yes, really. But it only lasted a micro-second before the flavours opened up into a very flowery and slightly nutty delight.

The aftertaste is one of slight nuttiness and is long, very long. It is more 'warming' than 'tingly' on the tongue and is not as thick or rich as I may have expected. But don't take any of this as a negative. This is a very good whisky, but if I were given this blind, I would struggle to place it as being from Islay.

Overall Impression: A stunning Bowmore. I love the combination of roast pork with delicate flowers, turning into nuts and maybe even a little marzipan. This has been a real pleasure. The chance to savour a whisky which I would probably never have done if left to my own devices. Thanks Jόrgen!

 

   
   

Bowmore, 12y, 43% ABV

Discontinued presentation

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: Sweet with honey and fruit.

Palate: Light bitter chocolate and not quite ripe pears.

Edit: A second and later nosing / tasting of this 12y showed the nose to be less sweet than my first impression. I also noted the palate to be creamy with vanilla, lime and honey.

Overall Impression: A reasonable everyday dram

 

   
   

Bowmore, 12y, 'Enigma', 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark gold, amber

Nose: Aged wood, just a touch of leather and lots of the great Scottish outdoors. Not too much sea-air, but fresh countryside, heather and bracken.

Palate: Smooth with hints of raisins and wood, maybe a little honey and almond.

Finish: Medium to long and rich honey with hints of almond and wood.

Overall Impression: Totally different and slightly heavier than the standard 12y, but I like it!

 

   
   

Bowmore, Mariner, 15y, 43% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Amber

Nose: Well-aged wood, furniture polish, light creosote with just a hint ofd smoky banana

Palate: Very smooth and creamy mouth-feel, this grows slowly on the palate to encomapss rich honey, sherry, wood (oak), hints of marzipan and eventually rich fruit.

Finish: Slow to start, but then really quite long

Overall Impression: This one definitely grows on the palate with time. Rich, smooth, fruity honey. Nice!

 

   

 

   

Bowmore, 'Surf', 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark gold, rich oak, not quite amber

Nose: Fresh moss, newly sawn wood, light rubber and light fruit (pear, apple)

Palate: Smooth and creamy, lightly herbal and almost fruity

Finish: Medium to long

Overall Impression: A light and fresh Bowmore, but really quite unusual with those fruity herbal notes. Not sure about this one.

 

   
   

Bowmore, Cask Strength, NAS, 56% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Amber

Nose: Light smoke, peat and quite fresh Atlantic sea-air.

Palate: Very smooth, smoky peat and a hint of honey.

With 4 drops of water: Smoother with a little more peat on the aftertaste.

With another 4 drops of water: A more aromatic nose gives way to smooth gentle peat on the palate.

Finish: Long

Overall Impression: Thoroughly enjoyable, with or without water.

 

     

 

   

Bowmore, Dawn 51.5% ABV

Now obsolete bottling

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: New leather shoes on a beach. Slightly salty with hints of new leather. Further nosing began to introduce some fruit elements.

Palate: A lovely tingle to the front of the tongue followed by raisins, currants, leaves and a little smoke.

Finish: Smooth and smoky with dark fruits and wet leaves.

Overall Impression: No FWP effect here in my bottle.

 

   
   

Bowmore, Dusk, claret cask, 50% ABV

Now obsolete bottling

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Tasting #1:

Nose: Smoke and sea air with hints of toffee and banana after a few minutes.

Palate: Can it be that I find chocolate, liquorice and even a slight cocktail of peach and vanilla?

With 3 drops of water: Celery suddenly appears on the palate.

Overall Impression: I quite like this one and it shows no trace of the infamous FWP effect.

 

Tasting #2 (at a later date):

Nose: Red wine, honey and a little peat.

Palate: Initially smooth and creamy with a hint of rich red wine opening onto the palate with a tingling, lingering flowery peatiness.
A second taste offers more raisins and a little oak.

Overall Impression: Still no FWP effect, but the flavours have proven to be quite varied and do seem to have changed over time in the open bottle.

 

   
   

Bowmore, Darkest, sherry cask, 43% ABV

Now obsolete bottling

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: Banana and leather with some smoke.

Palate: Smooth and spicy at the same time, with some hints of liquorice and toffee. The toffee builds quite quickly on the palate then fades equally quickly, promising much but delivering little. Although the liquorice finish is quite long.

Overall Impression and author's note: Since this tasting Bowmore have re-aligned their product range with Dawn & Dusk no longer being available. This particular Darkest had no age statement, but is the one to remain in the range, albeit now as a 15y version. I find this a great shame as for me, the Darkest was rather one-dimensional and possibly my least favorite of the three, so I hope the 15y is better!

 

   

 

 

Independent Bottlers

 
   

A.D. Rattray, Bowmore 17y, distilled 19.8.1991, bottled 3.11.2008, 56.2% ABV

First fill Sherry Butt, cask 2060

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Colour: Wonderful rich oak

Nose: Currants, raisins, old oak and a little smoke.

Palate: Those raisins and currants are present, but the smoke also makes an appearance along with wonderful Scottish heather.

Overall Impression: This really is an extremely good Bowmore, possibly one of my favourites. My only criticism is that the finish is a little short.

 

   
   

Murray McDavid, Bowmore 13y, 1996, 46% ABV

Chateau Petrus Casks

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Dram-atics "Advent-urous" live review

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale, almost transluscent copper

Nose: An initial burst of peat is soon followed by a sweet fruitiness in the background. This opens further with a suggestion of slightly smoky red wine.

Palate: This is really quite unusual in that it starts creamy and smooth but soon gains a pepperiness which is concentrated solely on the extreme front of the palate. The fruitiness then emerges with apricots marinated in cognac, a hint of banana and red or rosι wine with red fruits then leading the way into the finish.

Finish: Very long and fruity.

Overall Impression: Very unusual, that Petrus cask has a very distinct effect and I can't really decide whether this particular finish works for me as maybe it is just a little too effective. Either way, this is best described as smoky peat marinated in good red wine.

 

   
     

Vom Faί, Bowmore, 11y, 40% ABV

"Vom Faί" as the name suggests, sells directly from small casks in the shop(s)

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Yellow gold

Nose: Sweet but gentle smoky peat

Palate: Smoky peat with a touch of honey.

Finish: Long with gentle peat and just a faint suggestion of redcurrant.

Overall Impression: This is a much smokier and peatier Bowmore than others of similar ages that I have tried. They usually have more heather and honey with a suggestion of peat, this is the reverse of the 'norm' and thoroughly enjoyable. Well done to Vom Faί with this acquisition!

 

   
   

Adelphi, Bowmore 12y, 1998-2010, 61.9% ABV

Cask 800017

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Dram-atics "Advent-urous" live review

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Sunny amber

Nose: Gentle peat and smoked summer fruits with a hint of dentist's chair, or rather surgery, appearing after some minutes. This soon fades and leaves smoky oak and new Italian leather.

Palate: Smoky peaty mango is my initial thought, although the alcohol burn of 61% soon declares a need for water.

With 4 drops of water: Lots more smoky oak is released into the nose, whereas the palate seems smoother and fruitier before the peat returns.

With 4 more drops of water: Nice and gentle fruity peat dominates the nose. The palate is smoother again, or at least it appears to be until the liquorice tingle assaults the front of the palate. This is not bad, it's just quiet unexpected as the previous addition of water made this much smoother.

With a further 4 drops of water: The nose is now filled with light peat, smoke and aged wood (oak). The palate is again smoother and slightly less peppery as that smoke, peat, wood and fruit all vie for dominance.

Finally with a 'splurge' of water: Dark fruits (raisins, currants & plums) along with wood, leather and smoky peat all harmonise into a choir on the nose whilst the palate is silky, smooth, fruity and smoky. It's also now quite a bit sweeter. After some minutes the distinct aroma of (smoked) Black Forest ham delights the nose!

Finish: Long with gentle peat and fruit.

Overall Impression: This is not quite a typical Bowmore, but it is typically Adelphi in that it's strong, needs water and a little patience, but given these it does indeed reward accordingly.

 

   
   

Coopers Choice, Bowmore, 19y, 1990 - 2009, 46% ABV

Cask Ref. 1131

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Dram-atics live review

 
 

Glass: Munich Whisky Festival 2011

Colour: Golden amber.

Nose: Now here's a rich dram; lots of aged oak and rugged leather (think hiking boots!) on the nose which opens after some minutes to include slightly smoky sweet honey.

Palate: All of the elements from the nose translate perfectly onto the palate which also develops a little black pepper.

Finish: Long with aged oak, faint smoke and black pepper.

Overall Impression: What is it about these 19y sherry-cask Bowmores that makes them so good, I really like this whisky!

 

   
   

Whisky Agency "Liquid Sun", Bowmore, 11y, 2000 - 2011, 46% ABV

Matured in a bourbon barrel, one of 145 bottles

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale yellow

Nose: Starting with fresh pine soaked in vanilla sauce, in fact there's a lot of vanilla here. Also hints of fruits with mainly apple and apricot. This is a very clean and fresh nose overall.

Palate: The palate is much more solid than the light and fresh nose as it immediately offers malt and white peppercorn with hints of liquorice root.

Finish: Long and quite rich.

Overall Impression: A surprisingly good, albeit sligthly unusual Bowmore.

 

   
   

C&S Dram, Bowmore, 10y, 6.9.1999 - 16.8.2010, 61.4% ABV

Matured in bourbon barrel No.361, bottle No.184

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale yellow gold

Nose: Unbelievably this starts with the flavour of the most common crisps in Germany . Ungarisch! Then hay, straw and grasses develop and turn this into a very outdoor style of whisky before we head right back to crisps, this time with (UK) Walkers smoky bacon flavour. There's also a hint of woodiness.

Palate: That 61% abv really shows here and the overriding quality is that of alcohol burn and pepper, this really needs some water although there is some suggestion of honey, heather and a certain slightly smoky sweetness.

With 4 drops of water: Lots more smokiness on the nose now, but also a farminess with that hay and straw relocated to a barn. The palate has much less pepperiness and now focuses on honey, heather and smoke.

With a further 4 drops of water: The nose is one of gentle smoke and honey and the palate loses all traces of pepperiness to also focus on the smoky honey. It's still an outdoor style with lots of countryside, but no traces of Atlantic saltiness.

Finish: Long, even longer with water and also concentrated on the back of the palate.

Overall Impression: Much better with water!

 

   
   

TWE "Masterpiece", Bowmore, 18y, 61.6% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ to €€€€€

Live Dram-atics review

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Bright gold

Nose: This starts with light honey and a fresh coastal breeze, then expands to include a light leafiness alongside a faint smokiness. This is followed further by quite floral malt and a typical summer herb garden.

Palate: Very smooth and creamy mouth-feel, but quite a bit richer than the nose as lots of that gently smoked honey and herb garden really shine through on the palate. There's also plenty of rolling Scottish countryside with heather and bracken.

Finish: Long.

Overall Impression: Fresh, lots of countryside and light smokiness. An excellent whisky.

 

   
   

TWE "Masterpiece", Bowmore, 18y, 61.6% ABV

Distilled 1.5.1993, one of 195 bottles

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ to €€€€€

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale gold

Nose: Very aromatic, lightly floral and fruity with pear and red berries alongside Atlantic sea-air and faint peat smoke. Always fresh and very civilised.

Palate: Quite peaty on the palate, more so than the nose. It's warming and solid, quite unusual for a Bowmore, but most enjoyable.

Finish: Long and rich with a suggestion of peaty toffee.

Overall Impression: Yes a quite a-typical Bowmore but very good, excellent.

 

   
   

D.Laing "Old Malt Cask", Bowmore, 10y, Sept. 2000 - April 2011, 58.4% ABV

Sherry Butt, DL Cask No.7071, one of 516 bottles for La Maison du Whisky

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (just at €78)

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich cherry wood, pale amber.

Nose: Wax furniture polish with hints of basil & rosemary. The woodiness then expands to become much richer and is joined after 5-6 minutes by a suggestion of nutty honey, but always remaining gentle and very pleasant.

Palate: More peat here on the palate than the nose, also a freshness reminiscent of Atlantic sea-air alongside rich creamy honey.

Finish: Long with herbal honey and a light peatiness.

Overall Impression: A rich palate gives this lots of character. A very good whisky.

 

   
 

 

Malts of Scotland, Bowmore, 15.4.2000-3.2010, 58.7% ABV

Bourbon Barrel, Cask No.800266, one of 192 bottles

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very pale yellow

Nose: Fruity bonfire embers with a light smokiness expanding further over time. There's also a faint rubberiness which is quite pleasant alongside a very coastal "Atlantic" character and plenty of fruitiness.

Palate: Fruity, always very fruity but with the addition of grassiness and a light smokiness.

With 4 drops of water: Even more fruitiness on the nose and also on the palate, but the palate also gains a hint of malt and some further smokiness.

Finish: Long, even longer and fruitier with the water.

Overall Impression: Very nice Bowmore with lots of fruity character.

 

   
 

 

Malts of Scotland, Bowmore, 1995-2010, 56.4% ABV

"Amazing Casks", Cask No.177, one of 222 bottles

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Shiny gold

Nose: Lots of heather, in fact a veritable Scottish moor covered in it, with some light smoke and a suggestion of pineapple and mandarin. After 4-5 minutes the heather intensifies further and is joined by bracken and vanilla.

Palate: Creamy and smooth mouth-feel whilst being rich in flavours with heather, oak and that pineapple and mandarin in the background.

With 4 drops of water: The nose is now musty and more smoky whilst the palate is slightly oily and bitter with a suggestion of banana.

Finish: Very long, even longer with the water.

Overall Impression: Very nice, I love that fruitiness.

 

   
 

 

Duncan Taylor, Bowmore, 27y, 1982-2009, 50.6% ABV

"The Octave", Cask No.378770

Typical cost of this bottle; Unknown

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Glowing oak

Nose: Slightly musty and smoky aged wood which expands with time to include hints of cherry and eventually offers a very fruity maltiness.

Palate: Herbal, floral and really quite 'grassy'. There's also lots of dry oak which helps to suggest a quite 'Atlantic' character.

With 4 drops of water: The nose is now even more fruity and musty whereas the palate has lots of creamy vanilla with a floral background.

Finish: Long and more floral with water.

Overall Impression: Very nice and quite amazing how the drops of water really change the character.

Author's Note: I was given this sample, or perhaps more accurately a half-sample by Serge Valentin who reviewed this whisky back in March 2010, exactly two years before my review here. He was decidedly unimpressed, finding parma violets, parma violets and more parma violets along with lilac, lily from the valley and lavendar scent bags. Did he also find aspirin and American coffee? I believe he did. Anyway, he called it a "Scary Monster" and awarded it 59 points for the whisky +1 point for the nice label. I just wonder how much the two years has changed this sample? My own review finds a general floral character but with lots of typical Islay sea-air and smokiness. In fact I decidedly liked this one so maybe I need to provoke another discussion about how whisky changes (or not?) with time in an opened bottle. Slΰinte Serge!

 

   
 

 

Whisky Faessle, Bowmore, 1997-2012, 15y, 53.7% ABV

Bourbon hogshead, Duck edition

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2012

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich golden yellow

Nose: An initial earthiness and farminess predominate, then a light peatiness and somethign fruity, banana? Somehow I'm thinking light peat wrapped in banana leaves. This constantly tries to be more peaty but it's really more earthy accompanied by that fruitiness. Eventually it offers some maritime freshness.

Palate: Quite sweet here and certainly a little more peatiness than the nose offered. Nice, that sweetness is very honey-like.

Finish: Long and gentle with more light earthiness.

Overall Impression: Lightly peaty and earthy with some quite aromatic (Tasmanian) honey. Very good indeed.

 

     
 

 

Speciality Drinks, "Elements of Islay" BW1, 52.9% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2012

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: 21ct yellow gold

Nose: Fresh with a very light rubberiness. Then a smoky woodiness reminiscent of an open log fire. Almost fruity, but extremely lightly so.

Palate: Ahh yes, now there's some fruitiness ... papaya? mango? definitely exotic. Tingly too with a light rubberiness and hints of coconut.

Finish: Long with more hints of coconut.

Overall Impression: Lightly rubbery and peaty with plenty of exotic fruitiness and hints of coconut too. I love this as it delivers much.

 

   
 

 

L'Esprit, Bowmore, 8y, 15.10.2002 - 23.8.2011, 46% ABV

Hogshead, Cask No.20148 bottle 356 of 372

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2012

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Extremely pale yellow

Nose: Initially fishy, yes quite fishy then some mustiness and leafiness. With more time in the glass a ligth fruitiness and smokiness evolve.

Palate: Definitely no fishiness on the palate but it is quite leafy and lightly smoky. There's also a fruitiness akin to apple or pear.

Finish: Long.

Overall Impression: Am I back in Yorkshire on a riverbank catching chub and barbel?

 

   
 

 

Wilson & Morgan, Bowmore, 15y, 1996-2011, 57.3% ABV

"Barrel Selection" Sherry Butt 960005,

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2012

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Brilliant dark teak

Nose: Very earthy with plenty of aged oak. After some minutes some light rubberiness and peatiness develop followed by very aromatic flora.

Palate: Wow, extremely rich and intense with what I can only describe as currants, raisins, figs and prunes all wrapped in chocolate sauce. Hints of coffee too? Not quite, but amazingly some suggestion of green tea right at the end.

Finish: Will it ever end? Hopefully not.

Overall Impression: What can I say? Fantastic, rich ..... A truly wonderful whisky.

 

   

 

 

 

 

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