Bowmore Distillery

The oldest of Islay's whisky distilleries, Bowmore occupies white-painted buildings on the shore of Loch Indaal, an inlet on the south coast of the island. It was founded in 1779 by a local merchant, David Simson, who had bought the land in 1766. The distillery has its name painted in large letters along its seaward side. Bowmore is one of relatively few distilleries in Scotland that malts its own barley and is able to produce 30% of its needs on site, with the remainder imported from the mainland. This malt is smoked in a peat-fuelled kiln. Water is drawn from the River Laggan. Much of its whisky is matured on the island, in warehouses located next to the loch. These include the famous No.1 Vault, a stone-built maturation warehouse that is probably the oldest in Scotland and which lies below sea level, creating a unique maturation environment which imparts a salty flavour to the whisky.

Around 1837, the distillery was acquired by William and James Mutter, the Glasgow-based descendants of a German family. In 1887, following drop a in demand for whisky due to an economic depression, Bowmore was sold to John Bell Sherriff of Campbeltown. Glasgow whisky broker Stanley P. Morrison Ltd bought the distillery in 1963. The company was renamed Morrison Bowmore, and they renewed the equipment and many of the buildings, although the original floor maltings was retained. Bowmore was run alongside Auchentoshan Distillery and Glen Garioch Distillery, which produce different styles of whisky. In 1994 the Japanese drinks conglomerate Suntory acquired Morrison Bowmore. Today, the output of the distillery is 2,150,000 litres of spirit per annum.

In 2020, bottles from the last cask of 'Black Bowmore', distilled in 1964, were on sale with a price tag around £65,000 each. This whisky is described as having "complex aromas of ripe tropical fruit, orange peel and rich black cherry, with a heavier palate of chocolate, espresso coffee, mango and passion fruit, with a subtly spicy finish."

Queen Elizabeth II visited Bowmore in 1980, her first visit to a whisky distillery. Waste heat from the distillation process goes to heat the swimming pool in the Mactaggart Leisure Centre, which was created from one of the distillery's former warehouses.

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