Bowmore Distillery is Islay's oldest licensed distillery (1816) however, it was established around 1779, which also makes it one of Scotland's oldest distilleries. Bowmore Distillery is one of few distilleries in Scotland that continues to malt some of their barley on-site (Laphroaig and Kilchoman are the other two on Islay that do floor maltings). A visit to Bowmore Distillery is an excellent opportunity to witness malt floors in action, and if you're lucky, you might even get to see inside the kiln!
A tour of Bowmore Distillery is a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it if you get the opportunity (seeing inside a working kiln was an absolute highlight for me).
How to Pronounce Bowmore
Where is Bowmore Distillery?
Bowmore Distillery is in the town of Bowmore, on the Isle of Islay, Scotland.
Bowmore Distillery is known for its rich, subtly sweet, peated whisky (though I consider it lightly peated compared to some of the other Islay distilleries!). There are usually tropical fruit and/or citrus flavours, often with spice notes and/or raisins. When I think of Bowmore whisky, I think of the fruit cakes my mum used to make when we were kids - rich and raisiny. Bowmore was one of the first whiskies that got me into whisky. It is very approachable. My only gripe is that nowadays, the distillery tends to add E150a (spirit caramel) to make the colour darker (note the colour difference in the two whiskies below) and they often chill filter.
Independent bottlings can be an excellent way of tasting Bowmore whisky at its finest (un-chill filtered and no E150a added). You can find independent bottlings of Bowmore at The Whisky Exchange and occasionally via The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (distillery code 3).
Bowmore 15 year old is a distillery bottling that spends its final three years in oloroso sherry casks. The whisky has a rich sweetness that blends well with the peaty elements. Colouring (E150a) added.
Bw8 is an independent bottling made with Bowmore whiskies from 2001 and 2003, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and sherry butts for at least 16 years. Bottled at cask strength; tastes of dark chocolate, sea salt, and tropical fruit.
Bowmore Distillery Tours, Pricing & Bookings
Due to COVID-19, Bowmore distillery are not currently offering tours. For more information please see https://www.bowmore.com/experiences.
Bowmore Distillery Images
There are a number of hotel options in Bowmore (and nearby Bridgend), as it is one of the main towns on Islay, though you'll find the largest range of options via Airbnb. Bowmore is easy to get around on foot, and there are several restaurants and cafes. There is also a supermarket, a bank and a post office, which makes it an especially convenient spot for families or for those reliant on public transport to get around.
References & Further Reading
- Alfred Barnard, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, 2008 Edition, first published in 1887 by Harpers Weekly Gazette
- Ian Buxton, Whiskies Galore : A Tour of Scotland's Island Distilleries, 2018 Edition
- Neil Wilson, The Island Whisky Trail : An Illustrated Guide to the Hebridean Whisky Distilleries, 2003 Edition