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Bowmore distillery

Bowmore is sometimes known as the “gentleman” of the smoky Islay whiskies, not being as peaty as its neighbors Ardbeg or Laphroaig. Regardless the coastal distillery offers a warm campfire smoke and the skillful use of Spanish sherry barrels, their bourbon based offerings are generailly solid if unexceptional in the main.

Bowmore Whisky

The Bowmore distillery, pronounced “Boumor”, was founded in 1779. The Bowmore Distillery is not only the oldest distillery on their home island of Islay, but also one of the oldest licensed whisky distilleries in Scotland. It nestles in the town of Bowmore in the bay of Loch Indaal. On clear days you can see the Bruichladdich Distillery on the opposite bank. Standing in Bowmore at the pier, it’s easy to imagine how the whisky barrels used to be rolled ashore here. Bowmore produces a medium heavy peat single malt whisky for Islay standards. In the distillery you can read a quote on the wall by the Scottish author Iain Banks “If you can’t find a Bowmore to fall in love with, you may have to consider very seriously the possibility that you’re wasting your money drinking whisky at all.”

House Style

What does Bowmore Single Malt taste like?Bowmore Whisky has a classic salty-smoky aroma and offers a smoky and a nice sherry note on the palate. Younger bowmores are suitable as an aperitif, older whiskies as a digistif. The distilleries older bottlings were considerably more fruity than the fare of today. Bottles of the late ’80s and early 1990s are somewhat notorious for their “French whore” perfume with aromas of violets, and soap.


How is Bowmore Whisky Produced?Bowmore consistently produces smoky whisky. For this purpose, the distillery operates its own malting plant. There, the peat is shredded before being distilled in order to deliver a larger amount of smoke with less heat. However, the malt is not smoked as long as for the smokier Islay whiskies. Bowmore produces around 40% of the malt used in the distillery itself.

The distillery makes a massive additional effort by manually processing the malt. Obviously, the importance of peat for the aroma formation of the finished single malt justifies this use, especially for the Bowmore Distillery, the above-average proportion of sherry casks is in the barrel. Around 30% of the whisky is aged in sherry casks. Bowmore’s single malts are not quite as intense as Islay whiskies from the south coast, namely Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. Nevertheless, the peat content at Bowmore should not be underestimated. Depending on the level of experience, peat smoke is sometimes perceived as less, sometimes as more intense. Bowmore’s smoke aroma can tend to campfire embers and cold ashes, giving it a unique aroma. Bowmore can be classified in terms of taste and geography between the intense malts of the south coast and the more milder ones. This is partly due to the fact that Bowmore single malts often have low volume percentages of around 40 and 43% vol. be filled, which supports their soft character. Bowmore is anything but a mediocre malt. It cleverly combines the extreme poles of the highly smoky Islay whiskies with the fine tones of the sherry casks.

Bowmore’s warehouses are located directly on the sea, sometimes even below sea level. Accordingly, the whisky is characterized by a clear maritime note and a subtle saltiness. In the cool, constantly moist climate, the whisky matures very slowly and evenly. Like the whisky from the south coast, whisky from Bowmore is extremely complex and offers a rich, diverse range of bottlings.Read more about the importance of peat for whisky.


To get to know the distillery, we recommend the classic Bowmore 12 years. This excellently composed single malt combines all the properties of Bowmore whiskies. It carries the distinctive medium-heavy smoke note and is composed of a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels. So it well represents the different flavors that Bowmore is known for. With its mild 40% vol. it is ideal for beginners in the world of peat smoke. Would you like to taste a special variant with an older age? Then you should definitely try the Bowmore 15 years with the Bowmore-typical sherry barrel focus. With a slightly increased drinking strength and a few more years of aging, the Bowmore 15 offers a deep chocolate complexity. This cleverly marries with the pleasant warm campfire smoke of the distillery. Very clear recommendation on our part.


Bowmore was founded in 1779. After nearly a century of wild fairways and many changes of ownership, Bowmore was finally taken over by broker Stanley P. Morrison in 1963. The Morrison era was supposed to seal Bowmore’s rise, and whisky fans still rave about the outstanding Bowmore bottlings of the 1960s. Morrison subjected the distillery to a much-needed revision and, among other things, renewed the heating systems. Modern heat exchange systems not only saved a lot of energy and money, but also heated the local swimming pool. The company, which was now called Morrsion Bowmore, was taken over in 1994 by the Japanese beverage company Suntory. Suntory had owned a 35% stake in the company since 1989. Suntory had already made a name for itself with Japanese whisky and their own single malt whisky distilleries Yamazaki and Hakushu. In 2014 Suntory merged with the American Bourbon Jim Beam to form today’s Beam Suntory group. In addition to Bowmore, Beam Suntory also manages the neighboring distillery on Islay Laphroaig and the Mainland distilleries Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Ardmore.

Bowmore factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Bowmore bow*moor Islay Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1779 - Present Malt Bowmore Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Rachel Barrie Beam Suntory

Bowmore Timeline:

1779: Said to have been founded by John Simpson, a local merchant. It was one of the first legal distilleries and owner operated which was unusual, since most proprietors on Islay leased out their distilleries

1816-18: John Simpson (also Simson)

1825-26: John Johnston

1826-37: John Simpson until at least 1837

....: Taken over by James Mutter and his family. James was a farmer and a distiller, but also Ottoman, Portuguese, and Brazilian vice-consul in Glasgow. He expanded the Distillery considerably and used his own steamship to bring in Barley and Coal and ship whisky to Glasgow

1851: Operating

1852: William & James Mutter

early 1890s: Distillery sold by the Mutter family and became Bowmore Distillery Co.

1922: Bowmore Distillery Co. put up for sale

1925: Purchased by Sherriff’s Bowmore Distillery Ltd.

WWII: Distillery used as a coastal command base by the Air Ministry

1950: Sherriff’s Bowmore Distillery Ltd. acquired by William Grigor & Son Ltd., Inverness

1963: Acquired by Stanley P. Morrison. He rebuilt and renovated many of the buildings. Stills became steamheated

1994: Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd. 100% owned by Suntory Ltd.

Can I tour Bowmore?

Yes Bowmore distillery is tourable. On Trip Advisor the distillery has been rated as excellent by 476 of 691 tours to date. This gives Bowmore an overall rating of 4.5

Latest reviews

Shop Visit by Haemara

Thanks to all the staff at Bowmore for a welcoming and informative visit. Covid unfortunately restricted our visit but the staff were helpful and friendly and provided some excellent information and history (as well as excellent whisky)

Great Shop Experience by Whisky_ileach

Popped in a spent a little too much on whisky in the shop lol.Great Covid-19 measures in place.Appointment only and they meet you at the gate, temperature taken and hand sanitation before entering the shop.Great selection of products and friendly staff.See you again soon when tours / tastings resume

Very Helpful by Trout21

I rang to enquire if they sold smaller bottles in the shop. Was told because of Covid, I had to make an appointment! Anyway I did and when I arrived I was let in and got my pack of three smaller bottles and left. They were super helpful. They were not doing tastings or tours, whereas some other distilleries were.(Langavulin)

Rating Reviews
Excellent 476
Very good 163
Average 39
Poor 8
Terrible 5