The River Laggan journeys many miles through Islay, cutting its course through ferrous rocks, peat bog, moss and grassy mound, ‘til it finds itself at the Western harbour town of Bowmore, Islay’s capital. The distillery produces some two million litres annually and adheres to strict traditions; production methods have scarcely changed in two centuries. Founded in 1779, by John Simpson, Bowmore is Islay’s oldest distillery. Following purchase in 1837, by William and James Mutter, the distillery was resold in 1892 to the Bowmore Distillery Company Ltd.
Changing hands twice during the late 1920s, in 1963 the distillery was purchased for £117,000 by Stanley P Morrison. Bowmore has had a long affiliation with Japanese pioneers Suntory, who acquired a stake in the company during the late 1980s. In 1994, they bought the company outright. Bowmore enjoys a curious middle-ground as far as flavour is concerned; far from being a lighter offering - à la Northern Islay-based Bunnahabhain - the spirit is not as heavily peated nor as smoky, as its three Southern cousins surrounding Port Ellen.
Today, Bowmore produces a heralded malt and the second best-selling Islay whisky after the leviathan Laphroaig.
Nose: Coastal smoke and ash soon make way for bergamot, orange zest, lemon slices and some hay before becoming rather floral, heather smoke now competing with the ash.
Palate: Lovely and rounded, honeyed even, initially. Vanilla, perfumed smoke and coastal elements develop. Dark Peat. Blossom, oily sweetness.
Finish: Smoky and long. Sea spray, dry grass, a touch of ash and citrus.