A gentleman called John Simpson took out a license to distil in 1816 but it is said by a few that illicit distilling took place at the site as early as 1779. However, there is no evidence of this actually being the case.
In 1837 a Glasgow blending company, Wm & Jas. Mutter, took over control of the Bowmore distillery. The years following Bowmore started to build a reputation, so much so that even Windsor Castle acquired a cask of their produce and this was during a time when Scotch was considered too strong for the ‘delicate English palate’.
Over a century passed and the distillery changed hands a fair few times before landing in the possession of Stanley P. Morrison in 1963. This era of Morrison ownership is deemed Bowmore’s most legendary period and the mid 1960’s bottlings have seen some astronomical prices paid at auction.
The Bowmore distillery received a revamp and had a high tech heat recovery system fitted which makes the distillery more efficient but also provides warmth to the local town’s swimming pool. Suntory, the Japanese distiller then gained full ownership of the Bowmore distillery in 1994.
The Bowmore distillery has a wide range of official bottlings available that vary in characteristics quite substantially. They have the extremely sought after 1960’s bottlings from the Black Bowmore range as well as no age whiskies such as ‘Legend’. You will also find a large number of independent bottlings that all have styles of their own with varying colours and textures. Bowmore also provides some of their produce to an all Islay blend called ‘Big Peat’.
There are two distinct types of whisky produced at Bowmore. The classic Islay malt characteristics of smoke with strong salinity and an underlying note of floral, fruity citrus. These aromas are at the forefront after long maturation periods as the heavy peat recedes into the background. However, if this malt is matured in ex-Sherry casks the outcome is different. Notes of chocolate, coffee and dark fruits come into play and Bowmore tend to choose between the two ends of the taste spectrum and release bottlings accordingly.