16 Apr Bowmore Distillery – Islay’s Oldest Licensed Distillery
Bowmore Distillery is Islay's oldest licensed distillery (1816) however, it was established around 1779, which also makes it one of Scotland's oldest distilleries. Bowmore Distillery is one of few distilleries in Scotland that continues to malt some of their barley on-site (Laphroaig and Kilchoman are the other two on Islay that do floor maltings). A visit to Bowmore Distillery is an excellent opportunity to witness malt floors in action, and if you're lucky, you might even get to see inside the kiln!
A tour of Bowmore Distillery is a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it if you get the opportunity (seeing inside a working kiln was an absolute highlight for me).
How to Pronounce Bowmore
Where is Bowmore Distillery?
Bowmore Distillery is in the town of Bowmore, on the Isle of Islay, Scotland.
Bowmore Distillery Tours, Pricing & Bookings
For bookings Tel: +44 (0)1496 810 441 or fill out the online enquiry form. Bookings are essential. I recommend you book tours at least several days (ideally more than a week) in advance. Call the distillery directly for bookings less than 24 hours in advance or for bookings of six or more people.
Unlock Hidden Depths Tasting and Tour : £10 per person, approximately 1 hour duration
Take a guided tour guided through Bowmore Distillery, see the malt floors, and end the tour back in the beautiful Visitor Centre Bar with a tasting of three Bowmore whisky whilst enjoying the view over Loch Indaal. Includes a Bowmore tasting glass to take home.
Time Savoured Tasting (no tour): £30 per person, 12:30 pm Monday - Saturday
Join one of Bowmore's guides on this tasting experience and explore a range of Bowmore single malts alongside some tasty treats.
The Vault's Secrets Tasting and Tour: £70 per person, 10:15 am most days (check the Bowmore Distillery website for further details). **This is my recommended tour if you want to see all the workings of the distillery and taste cask samples of Bowmore whisky.** The Vault's Secrets Tasting Tour begins with a taste of Bowmore limited release Vaults Edition, served in your very own Bowmore glass. This tour gives you unlimited behind the scenes access to Bowmore Distillery, from the old fashioned floor maltings to the deep dark Vault No. 1 warehouse and a special tasting straight from the cask. This tour includes a unique Bowmore tasting set including a 100ml cask sample for you to take home.
The Laggan, The Lade, and The Legendary No.1 Vaults: £130 per person, approximately 4 hours duration, 10.30am most Wednesdays and Fridays (check the Bowmore Distillery website for actual dates). The ultimate Bowmore Distillery Tour + Whisky Experience. Join one of Bowmore's guides and go off the beaten track into the heart of Islay to visit Bowmore's water source, the River Laggan. Learn the story of their 9-mile long meandering water-way, the Bowmore Lade. After a morning taking in the magnificent scenery around Islay you will visit Cafaidh Blasda based at the local Gaelic college where you will enjoy a traditional ploughman’s platter lunch. Thereafter you will return to the Bowmore Visitor Centre to embark on an in-depth tour of Bowmore distillery which includes a warehouse tasting in the legendary No.1 Vaults. A moderate level of fitness is required for this tour, and bring appropriate outer clothing as the weather on Islay can turn awful even on the sunniest of days. Maximum of six people.
Bowmore Distillery Images
Unfortunately, Bowmore have gone down the path of adding E150a caramel colouring to their bottles, and they chill-filter many of their releases (generally anything under cask strength). As someone who was once a fan of Bowmore, this saddens me, and I dearly wish they'd refrain from messing about with the whisky!
Independent bottlings can be an excellent way of tasting Bowmore whisky at its finest (un-chilfiltered and no E150a added). You can find independent bottlings of Bowmore at The Whisky Exhange and occasionally via The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (distillery code 3).
Ralfy has reviewed the Bowmore 15-year-old "Darkest" (below) - I agree with him it's not a bad dram, but it would be a lot nicer if they'd skip the caramel (the dark colour is not natural) and leave it unchillfiltered.
What Else Is Nearby
References & Further Reading
- Alfred Barnard, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, 2008 Edition, first published in 1887 by Harpers Weekly Gazette
- Ian Buxton, Whiskies Galore : A Tour of Scotland's Island Distilleries, 2018 Edition
- Neil Wilson, The Island Whisky Trail : An Illustrated Guide to the Hebridean Whisky Distilleries, 2003 Edition