Simpson founded Bowmore in 1779 on the wide eastern beaches of Loch
Indaal. It is Islay’s oldest legal distillery and the twelfth oldest
distillery in Scotland. John Simpson was a jack-of-all-trades and also
managed Tallant Distillery in the near vicinity, which is closed now. In
1852 Bowmore was inherited by W & J Mutters whom expanded the distillery
premises with e.g. more kilns and additional warehouses. When the
journalist and author Alfred Barnard visited Bowmore during the 1880’s
it was the second most productive distillery in Islay after Ardbeg among
the 12 legal distilleries that existed on the island at that time.
Bowmore was sold in 1890 to a group of London businessmen who formed the
company Bowmore Distillery Limited.
During the 1930’s and WW2 Bowmore was
forced to close, like so many other distilleries in Scotland. After
another four rounds of owners the whisky dealer Stanley P. Morrison
bought the distillery in 1963. He made several upgrades to the site and
also restored the mash tun which still is in use. In the middle of the
1960’s a man named Jim McEvan was employed who made a quick career at
Bowmore. He became the Distillery Manager in 1984 and was a main
contributor to the distillery’s successes during 1980’s and 1990’s. The
title was inherited by Ian McPherson in 2000 when Jim McEvan was
handpicked to manage the neighbour distillery Bruichladdich Distillery.
Japanese company Suntory
bought Bowmore in 1994. The
distillery lies in the town Bowmore, the largest town on
approximately 1000 inhabitants. One of the distillery’s
ware houses has been converted into a swimming pool for
appreciative Islay inhabitants. It is heated by
secondary heat from the distillery which has awarded
them several environmental prizes. Bowmore is known for
its vast variety of whiskies.
Bowmore use water from
the largest river on the island, the river Laggan which
lies approximately 10 km from the distillery. The water
has a defined peaty flavour and it is considered to
contribute to the character of the finished whisky.
Bowmore is one of the remaining few distilleries that
still malt parts their own barley. The peat that is used
to dry the barley is taken from local peat bogs. Three
malting floors are in active use and provide Bowmore
with about 40% of their malted barley; the rest is
bought from Port Ellen Maltings. The barley is peated to
approximately 20 ppm. It is dried for 18 hours with peat
and another 42 hours with hot air.
wooden-clad stainless steel mash tun holds eight tons.
The six fir/pinewood washbacks holds 40 000 litres each
and are named after the six previous owners. The
distillery has two wash stills that hold 31 000 litres
each but are run with only 20 000 litres. The two onion
shaped spirit stills are internally steam heated and
each hold 14 500 litres although they are filled to only
13 500 litres while distilling. The stills are six
meters high. The heart of the run which takes about 2.5
-3 hours to make starts at 74% alcohol by volume and
stops at 61,5%.
As the vast variety of editions offered by Bowmore
suggest, the whisky is stored in many different casks.
The majority is stored in used sherry and bourbon casks,
but port and Bordeaux casks as also used on occasion.
The distillery uses three warehouses, of which two are
located just outside of Bowmore town. The bottling
facilities are on the mainland in Springburn, Glasgow.
The annual production at Bowmore varies between 1,5 – 2
School street, Bowmore,
Isle of Islay,
Argyllshire, PA43 7JS
Visitors: Visitors accepted all year round. Opening
hours are Monday -
Friday 9:00 - 17:00, Saturdays 10:00 - 12:30. There are
two guided tours in the winter and four in the
summer. The tour is priced at £2 which is
refundable on purchase
in the gift shop. Bowmore
has a fully equipped store with clothes, whisky, books,
glassware etc. Bowmore has received the "Visitor Centre
Manager of the Year" award by the Whisky
Magazine. Approximately 10.000 people visits Bowmore
Distillery every year.
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