Owners during the 19th century included one John
Simpson and William & James Mutter. In 1922 the
distillery came up for sale and it took three years
before it was acquired by a company that went
by the name of Sherriff's Bowmore Distillery Ltd.

The Bowmore distillery on Islay was built in 1779,
at least that's the claim made by their marketeers.
The records from this early period are often vague,
so when the first Bowmore was actually distilled is
hard to determine with 100% accuracy.  

Where to find Bowmore

Water source:

Bowmore location
Bowmore single malt whisky

Bowmore  (Pronounced: bow-MORE)
Islay (Lochindaal)
Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila
Laggan River
2 Wash, 2 Spirit
2,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Suntory > Morrison Bowmore (since 1994)
Bowmore, Islay, Argyll, PA43 &JS

Bowmore Distillery Profile

Bowmore single malt whiskyTrack Record - overview of all single malts and scores
Bowmore distillery

In 1950 Bowmore was purchased by William Grigor & Sons Ltd. from Inverness.
A little over a decade later, in 1963, Stanley P. Morrison Ltd. bought Bowmore, increased the number of stills to four and added a visitor centre - proving that they had a nose for marketing even when the single malt market was still relatively small in the 1960's. The marketing of Bowmore became even more sophisticated after Suntory from Japan bought Bowmore's parent company in 1994. Apart from Bowmore, Suntory currently owns the Lowlands distillery
Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch in the Eastern Highlands.

A relatively large part of the whisky produced at Bowmore is bottled as a single malt, either
as official bottlings in the range I described above or as independent bottlings. The rest of
the malt whisky produced at Bowmore is an ingredient of
blends like Rob Roy and Black Bottle.

Bowmore 12 years old

Bowmore NAS 'Darkest' (43%, OB)
Nose: Hmmm... Quite nice, with sherry, smoke and some peat as the most obvious components.
Nothing wrong there at first, although I suddenly found more unpleasant elements after I tasted it.
Taste: Quite another tale. Just after opening, it tastes pretty awful. Sickly cloying chemical sickness.
Soap. Astringent aftertaste. A major disappointment, especially given the steep price.
Right now, I'd take the 17 or 21 anytime - or even the 'ordinary' 12yo. for that matter.
Score: 55 points - barely likeable. And it started so promising in the nose...

Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002, L378 205M 11:31)
Nose: A little sherry and a little smoke. Subdued fruity notes. No obvious perfumy notes.
All in all it's not very expressive, although it got some leathery notes and 'medicine' with time.
Taste: Starts out a tad sour and bitter for my tastes, but then there's a flash of peat.
The peat disappears just as quickly as it arrived, leaving a smoky, long and dry finish.
Score: 78 points - but it might have limped into the 80's with more power on the palate.
Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but I think the 12yo used to have more depth.
Still, this seems to be a perfume-free batch of Bowmore so I'm not complaining too much.

Bowmore 15yo 'Mariner' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000, Batch B180B)
Nose: Smoke, sherry and a hint of fruity perfume; typically Bowmore. Pepper?
It has changed considerably since I opened the bottle - and not in a good way.
Fortunately, it opens up with more peat after a minute. Sweeter and nuttier.
Taste: Bitter start, before it grows peatier. No sweetness. Chemical and perfumy.
The perfume element seems to have grown stronger over time - not a good thing.
Hot. Unbalanced. Sherry and smoke. Sourish, winey finish. Breaks apart pretty quickly.
Score: 80 points - recommendable, but just barely.

Bowmore 17yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Hmmm... Very soft sherry and a memory of peat, growing stronger over time.
A hint of furniture polish as well. There's not much else going on, though. Leather?
Just a tad sweeter with time. Organics. Smoked ham? Pleasant, but it remains a tad dull.
Taste: Whaaaaat???? What has happened here? I'm getting 'Darkest' flashbacks!
Smoky and burnt. Flat. Perfumy. Sour, uneven finish. Hint of menthol or pine?
It's completely destroyed. Oh boy, the worm has certainly turned in this one...
Score: 65 points - that's right; this bottle was OK when I opened it, but not anymore.
I usually ignore changes in a bottle that take place more than a year after opening, but in this case only a few drams had been taken from the bottle - in which case I expect my bottles to last a little longer. Oxidation isn't supposed to become a problem until after you've started on the second half of the bottle. Please note that the nose still isn't bad - it's the 'French prostitute with 3 degree burns' taste that spoils the fun for me.

Bowmore 1965 'Full Strength' (50%, OB, Bottled 1980's)
Nose: Wow! This smells like a heavily sherried Speysider. Dark fruity notes. Sellery. Clay.
Great wood. Subtle smoky notes - like a garden bonfire. Something metallic. Stock cubes.
Wonderful sherry. Very complex - many elements I can't quite get my hands on.
Taste: Smooth, fruity start followed by sweet liquorice. Good wood. Dry Burn.
Strong fruity centre. Long smoky finish. Fabulous mouth feel at 50%. Very complex too.
Score: 92 points - Yep, this is absolutely fabulous. Without a doubt and by far the best Bowmore I ever tried. Maybe this was the profile they tried to re-create with the Bowmore Darkest? If so, they failed miserably... But then again, this profile is so extreme that it might scare away women and children...

Bowmore 33yo 1968/2001 (46.2%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1431, 218 Bottles)
Nose: Rich. Organics. Passion fruit. Melon. Strawberry? A forest in autumn. Rum.
It shows a faint hint of perfume, but nothing like the heavy chemical 'FWP' odeur.
Taste: Strangely fruity. No peat whatsoever, but it still has a great mouth feel.
It has a very subtle smokiness that's surprisingly appealing. Dry, woody finish.
Score: 87 points - some things reminded me a lot of the Bruichladdich 1970.
It's great, but Islay peat and subtlety still don't mix too well for me, I'm afraid.
Maybe this cask shot just a little bit past its prime a few years ago.

Bowmore 35yo 1968/2003 (42.05%, Peerless, Cask #1424, 201 Bottles)
Nose: Indeed, rather similar to C#1431 at first - maybe a little grainier. Not as expressive.
Obvious differences emerge quickly: this one has no fruit at all. Maybe some eucalyptus?
It's pretty much dead after five minutes - and I couldn't revive it with a few drops of water.
Hmmmm... Maybe some life signs after all with some more water? Hardly - comateuse at best.
No wait - after ten minutes there were some vaguely interesting organics and nutty notes.
Taste: Oooh... Very bitter in the start. Woody, flat centre. No entertainment value at all.
I wonder what they were thinking when they bottled this. This almost tastes like aspirin!
The fact that the nose grows mildly interesting over time kept it in the 70's - until I tasted it.
Score: 49 points - I have no love for this puppy. What a difference a cask makes...

Check out my Track Record for a complete and up-to-date overview of all 'siplings' I've tried.

Bowmore Scotch whisky

Bowmore still has its own maltings, although the three malt floors only produce about a third
of all the malted barley that Bowmore needs. The rest is produced at the Port Ellen maltings.
The malt is broken before it is dried over a very smoky fire, which may account for the fact
that modern day Bowmores tend to be predominantly smoky as opposed to the peatier style
of, for example, the three Southern 'Lochindaal' distilleries
Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig .
Some Bowmores released in the 1960's and before have a much lighter, more 'floral' style.

Together with Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas and Macallan, Bowmore was one
of the first distilleries that managed to put a broad and consistant range
of bottlings with different age statements on the shelves of liquorists.
Apart from a number of expressions without an age statement (Legend,
Surf, Cask Strength, Darkest, Dusk, Dawn, etc.) Bowmore's core range
consists of a 12yo, a 15yo, a 17yo, a 21yo, a 25yo and a 30yo whisky.
In the 1990's a 10yo expression was available in Holland as well, but
as far as I know the Bowmore 10 was discontinued a few years ago.
Bowmore has a style of its own which has many enthusiastic fans.

Trivia about Bowmore: Some Bowmore bottlings share an unpleasant trait that is known as 'FWP'.
This is short for 'French Whore Perfume' (excuse my French). It's quite unmistakable and most people with more refined palates find it absolutely revolting - but that didn't stop Bowmore from releasing those bottles anyway. What an inventive way to chase away a loyal customer base... The malt maniacs have written no less than three E-pistles about it in
Malt Maniacs #14 and Dave Broom did extensive research for his Lavender Lament E-pistle.

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