The oldest distillery on Islay, and among the oldest in Scotland, Bowmore was founded in 1779, in the heart of the town of the same name, the island’s capital. It is the second-biggest-selling whisky on Islay, producing a medium-peated malt with a character that has varied over the years.
Bowmore is one of the handful of distilleries in Scotland which malts some of its own barley, producing 30% of its needs on site. Along with this, it does both long and short fermentations – 48 and 100 hours – and matures much of its whisky on the island. Its warehouses sit low on the shore and include the famous No.1 Vaults, probably the oldest maturation warehouse in Scotland, which sits below sea level, creating a unique maturation environment. These factors combine to give Bowmore whisky its distinct character.
Spirit from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s is known for its tropical-fruit character, and is sought after by both fans and collectors. In the 1970s and 1980s, the distillery became known for a more floral whisky, characterised by a taste similar to Parma violet sweets which divides whisky drinkers. Spirit distilled in the 1990s has returned to the fruitier character of earlier years, and the distillery continues to carve out its own flavoursome niche.
The new-make at Bowmore has an incredibly fruity character and only a light smokiness. The barley, taken from its own malting floor with commercial malt bought in from industrial maltings, is peated to around 25ppm, meaning that while smoke is evident, it is not usually powerful.
Spirit produced in the 1980s often has a heavily perfumed Parma-violet note, while the spirit produced during the 1960s and 1970s is characterised by an elegant tropical fruitiness, a style that the distillery has been returning to since the early 1990s.