Bowmore Distillery

  • Scotland
  • San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2019, Silver Medal Winners: Travel Retail Exclusives
Phone Number
  • +441496810441
  • School St, Bowmore, Isle of Islay PA43 7JS, United Kingdom

Bowmore distillery by the water with reflection.

History of Bowmore Distillery

History of Bowmore Distillery

Foundation and Early Years

Bowmore Distillery, a revered name in the world of Scotch whisky, is situated on the shores of Loch Indaal on Islay, an island renowned for its whisky production. It marks its inception in 1779, making it one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. The distillery’s foundation is attributed to John P. Simpson, a local merchant, who established Bowmore in the heart of Islay’s whisky-making tradition. Despite claims of its establishment in 1779, official records of whisky production trace back to John Simpson acquiring a distillation license in 1816.

Ownership Transitions

Throughout its history, Bowmore Distillery has seen several changes in ownership. In 1837, the distillery was acquired by Glaswegian blending firm Wm & Jas Mutter, marking a period of innovation and expansion. The Mutter family introduced significant improvements, including the construction of a lade from the River Laggan. However, due to economic challenges, the distillery changed hands multiple times, with key transitions including its purchase by John Bell Sherriff in 1887 and later by Joseph Robert Holmes in 1892, who formed the Bowmore Distillery Co.

Modern Era and Innovations

The modern era of Bowmore began in 1963 when Stanley P. Morrison acquired the distillery. This period is noted for significant advancements and the introduction of legendary bottlings, particularly from the mid-1960s. Bowmore’s innovative approach included a heat recovery system that not only reduced fuel costs but also provided surplus hot water to heat the local swimming pool.

International Influence and Recent Developments

In 1989, Japanese drinks group Suntory bought a stake in Bowmore, taking full control in 1994. This transition underlined Bowmore’s global appeal and its importance in the international whisky market. Suntory’s ownership facilitated the launch of the groundbreaking Black Bowmore, a 100% Sherry-aged whisky, in 1995. The distillery’s acquisition by Beam Suntory in 2014 placed Bowmore under the umbrella of one of the world’s leading spirits companies.

Production and Distinctive Character

Bowmore Distillery is celebrated for its distinctive whiskies that blend smoky, saline, and fruity notes, a character shaped by its unique island environment. A significant portion of its production is aged in ex-Sherry butts, offering a spectrum of flavors from dark fruits to chocolate and smoke. The No.1 Vaults, where much of Bowmore’s whisky is matured, are renowned for their extraordinary microclimate, ideal for long-term maturation.

Bowmore Distillery’s rich history, spanning over two centuries, is a testament to its enduring legacy and contribution to Scotch whisky. From its traditional distillation methods to its global reach under Beam Suntory, Bowmore remains a symbol of quality and innovation in the whisky world​​​​​​​​.

Awards Won by Bowmore Distillery

San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2019: Bowmore’s Standout Performances

Gold Medal Winners

  • 18-Year-Old Travel Retail Exclusive
    • Award: Gold Medal
    • Profile: Deep and complex flavour
    • Maturation: Matured in Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks
    • Highlights: Recognized for its exquisite depth and complexity
  • 15-Year-Old Travel Retail Exclusive
    • Award: Gold Medal
    • Profile: Golden and elegant
    • Maturation: Matured in first-fill bourbon casks and hogsheads
    • Highlights: Celebrated for its refined elegance and golden profile
  • 18-Year-Old Expression
    • Award: Double Gold Medal
    • Profile: Perfect balance of ripe fruit, dark chocolate, and Islay smoke
    • Highlights: Top winner at the event for its exceptional balance and rich flavor profile
  • 12-Year-Old Expression
    • Award: Gold Medal
    • Profile: Complex and balanced
    • Highlights: Noted for its complexity and balanced nature, a testament to Bowmore’s craftsmanship
  • 25-Year-Old Expression
    • Award: Gold Medal
    • Profile: Toffee, hazelnut, and sweet peat smoke
    • Highlights: Praised for its rich combination of flavors, showcasing the distillery’s ability to produce exceptional aged whiskies

Silver Medal Winners: Travel Retail Exclusives

  • 15-Year-Old and 10-Year-Old Expressions
    • Awards: Silver Medals
    • Highlights: Further evidence of Bowmore’s quality across various age statements and cask finishes, underscoring the distillery’s success in travel retail exclusives

Bowmore Distillery Tour Information and Experience

Established in 1779, Bowmore Distillery stands as Islay’s oldest legal distillery, embodying centuries of Scottish whisky heritage. Unique among Scotland’s distilleries, Bowmore still practices the traditional craft of floor-malting its barley, a testament to its dedication to handcrafted whisky production.

Visitors are immersed in a process that includes turning the malt by hand and fermenting in wooden washbacks, culminating in maturation within the historic No.1 Vault, Scotland’s oldest whisky maturation warehouse.

A Tour for Every Whisky Lover

Bowmore Distillery caters to enthusiasts of all levels through a variety of tours and experiences. These immersive journeys cover every step of the whisky-making process, from the art of malting to the secrets of maturation, providing a comprehensive understanding of what makes Bowmore’s single malt whiskies so distinctive. Set against the picturesque Loch Indaal, the distillery offers not just a tour, but a sensory experience blending history, craftsmanship, and natural beauty.

Beyond the Tour: The Visitor Centre

The recently refurbished visitor centre, overlooking Loch Indaal, serves as a gateway to exclusive Bowmore expressions. Here, guests can explore distillery-exclusive bottlings, offering a chance to taste and acquire unique variations of Bowmore whisky. The centre’s opening hours are from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, with a recommendation to book in advance to secure a tour spot.

Responsible Enjoyment

In alignment with Scotland’s stringent drink-driving regulations, Bowmore Distillery promotes responsible consumption. Visitors planning to indulge are encouraged to consider local transport options or opt for takeaway bottles, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience without compromising on the chance to savor Bowmore’s exceptional drams.

Exploring Islay Beyond Whisky

Islay’s allure extends beyond its whisky, offering a tapestry of rugged landscapes, rich wildlife, and a welcoming community. The island is a haven for explorers, from its ancient ruins and breathtaking coastlines to its vibrant local crafts and Gaelic culture. Islay presents a holistic cultural experience, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the island’s beauty and traditions.

Flask & Barrel Review of Bowmore Distillery

As a whisky collector who’s seen the ins and outs of numerous distilleries, I reckon Bowmore Distillery stands out for a bunch of reasons, earning a solid 4.7 out of 5 in my book. First off, landing on Islay feels like stepping into a whisky lover’s dream, and Bowmore, with its rich history dating back to 1779, captures that essence perfectly.

The tour itself was a deep dive into the craft of whisky making. Seeing the traditional floor malting up close, where the barley is turned by hand, was a highlight for me. Not many places do that anymore, and it gives Bowmore that authentic touch. The wooden washbacks and the legendary No.1 Vault, the oldest maturation warehouse in Scotland, added layers to the experience, showcasing the dedication to preserving tradition while crafting their unique whisky.

The tasting session was the cherry on top. Sampling the distinct peat-smoke flavour that Bowmore is famous for, along with the subtle hints of salt and seaweed, was a revelation. It’s a flavour profile that speaks to the heart of Islay, and as a collector, it was both a treat and an education.

If I had to nitpick, the only reason Bowmore doesn’t hit a perfect 5 for me is purely personal preference. I’ve always had a soft spot for the heavier, more intense peat of some of Bowmore’s island neighbours. That said, Bowmore’s balance and complexity are something I greatly admire and have come to appreciate more with each sip.

The staff were knowledgeable and passionate, making the tour both informative and enjoyable. They shared insights not just about the whisky but about Islay’s history and culture, making the experience richer and more meaningful.

What To Do Nearby Bowmore Distillery

Bowmore VisitScotland iCentre – Just steps away from the distillery, this visitor center can help plan your stay on Islay with accommodation, things to do, and local distillery information. It’s a great first stop to make the most of your visit to the island​​.

The Round Church – This unique and historical church is known for its round shape, designed so that there are no corners for the devil to hide. It’s a picturesque spot that’s not just a place of worship but a piece of Bowmore’s heritage, located right in the heart of the town​​.

Islay Woollen Mill – About 4.4 miles from Bowmore, the mill offers a glimpse into traditional Scottish textile production. With a history dating back to 1883, it produces textiles that have appeared in films and been worn by royalty​​.

Museum of Islay Life – Located approximately 8.3 miles from Bowmore in Port Charlotte, this museum provides insights into the island’s history, from its natural environment to the lives of its people over thousands of years​​.

Finlaggan Trust – About 16 miles from Bowmore, Finlaggan was the seat of the Lords of the Isles. This historical site features ruins on a small island in a loch, offering a fascinating glimpse into Scotland’s medieval past​​.

Kildalton Cross – Situated around 19 miles from Bowmore, near Port Ellen, this ancient cross is one of the finest early Christian crosses in Scotland, dating back to the 8th century. Its detailed carvings and historical significance make it a must-visit​​.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Bowmore Distillery?

Peatzeria: It has a rating of 4.5 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1496 810810. Their address is 22 Shore St, Bowmore, Isle of Islay PA43 7LB, United Kingdom.

The Munchie Box: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. For inquiries, you can contact them at +44 1496 810669. Their location is Main St, Bowmore, Isle of Islay PA43 7JH, United Kingdom.

SeaSalt Bistro & Takeaway: This restaurant has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. You can call them at +44 1496 300300. Their address is 57 Frederick Cres, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay PA42 7BD, United Kingdom.

What hotels are near Bowmore Distillery?

The Lochside Hotel & Restaurant: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1496 810244. Their address is 20 Shore St, Bowmore, Isle of Islay PA43 7LB, United Kingdom.

Bowmore Hotel: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. For inquiries, you can contact them at +44 1496 810416. Their location is Jamieson St, Bowmore, Isle of Islay PA43 7HL, United Kingdom.

Bridgend Hotel: This hotel has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. You can call them at +44 1496 810212. Their address is Isle of Islay PA44 7PB, Isle of Islay PA44 7PB, United Kingdom.