Last year we went to Islay for a couple of days and visited the visitor centre at the Bowmore Distillery. No time sadly at that point or a tour or anything, and we promised to make up for that. So we did… Feis Ile 2013, we are back, and booked a tour in advance just to be sure. The last time we were there in 2012 it was windy and cloudy, this time the sun was shining bright…
Bowmore, what is there to tell about it…? Situated on the shores of Loch Indaal. Founded in 1779 and it is the oldest legal distillery on Islay. Bowmore Distillery is also one the few distillery’s left to have it’s own floor maltings. Their expressions have light peaty, salty flavours. They peat the barley to phenol levels of 18/25 ppm. The No 1 Vaults belong to the oldest maturation warehouses in Scotland. And the only one below sea level!
Bowmore is part of the Morrison Bowmore Distillers, together with Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Mc Clellands. The Morrison Bowmore Distillers is part of the Suntory Group. They also produce the Japanese Whisky Suntory, the Japanese liqueur Midori, the liqueur Drambuie and the blend The Last Drop.
At the Bowmore Distillery they use Kentucky Bourbon casks, Jerez Sherry buts, and Chateau in St. Julien (France) wine casks. All is bottled in Glasgow in a plant who processes also the other whisky’s and liqueur coming from the Morrison Bowmore Distillers. They use the water from the Laggan River for the distillery.
The core range of Bowmore consist of the ‘Legend’-, 12 year old-, 15 year old ‘Darkest’-, 18 year old-, and a 25 year old expression. Next to that they have different limited editions, specialists releases and travel exclusives.
They use a Portues Mill and have a grist bin that contains 8 tons per time. Everything looks just beautiful the copper tanks for water, the mash tun, the wooden wash backs, the stills…
We walked from the malting floors in to the smoking kiln. The malting floors only process 30% of the needed quantity, the rest they get from the mainland. They do not take it from Port Ellen Maltings, due to the specifications they want, and not the standard that Port Ellen Maltings sets, they want the perfect combination with their own.
From the kiln, we walked through the whole process of the making of the spirit of Bowmore. After drying it is grinded down, and then added water what is first heated to 63,5, then 85 and then 100 degrees. Each time about 40.000 liters of water is used from river Laggan.
After each mash 8 tonnes of draft is left behind, what is transported to local farmers for livestock. After the mash tun, it finds its way to one of the 6 wooden wash backs. Here 100 kg of Mari Distillers Yeast is added per wash back. In the end the wash will contain about 7,5 – 8% abv.
After that it was to the still house with a lovely view of the surroundings of the distillery. They have 2 wash stills with each 30.940 liters capacity, and 2 spirit stills with each approx. 14.750 liters. One is just a bit smaller, due to the limitations of the building. But not much of a difference.
There is a beautiful spirit safe dating back from the 1920’s where the spirit was flowing strong. The spirit is 69% abv and watered down with purified water to a reduced strength of 63,5% abv. Each spirit run produces around 4800 liters of new make.
After the still house it was on to the No.1 vaults to have a peak through the window. This year Bowmore had for the first time a fill your own bottle, from a sherry cask from 1997. Making it a 16 yo. We had the pleasure of filling our own from cask 23. The color was deep and beautiful, looking forward to reviewing that one!
After this the tour was concluded in the visitor centre with a taste of a 12 yo. Beautiful location and distillery! Below some more pictures