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Islay’s Oldest Distillery Still Produces Their Delicious Smoky Whisky Today

Islay’s Oldest Distillery Still Produces Their Delicious Smoky Whisky Today


If you’re a new reader, we here at The Good Stuff absolutely love Islay whiskies! While each region of Scotland produces whiskies with their own distinctive characteristics, if smoky, peatier whiskies are your thing, an Islay whisky might suit you best.

You might be familiar with the names Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and even our focus for today, Bowmore. Despite all these distilleries hailing from Islay, Bowmore remains to be the oldest distillery within the region that is still operating to this day.

Islay’s First Distillery

Source: Whisky Antique

Bowmore was founded by a merchant named David Simpson, who bought the land in 1766. Exactly what went on during the years in between is anyone’s guess!

First mentioned on record in the year 1799 (though locals believe distilling activities began almost ten years earlier), Bowmore houses the world’s oldest whisky maturation warehouse called the No. 1 Vaults.

Behind the doors of those legendary vaults do Bowmore’s whisky-crafting artistry take place, having been meticulously matured by their master distillers for nearly 240 years!

The Mutter Twins

The man pictured on the left is one half of the Glaswegian Mutter twins who bought the distillery from David Simpson’s family in 1837. Additionally, the photo on the right is one of the oldest bottles in the distillery’s possession.

Believed to be an expression crafted sometime in the 1880s, these bottles were appropriately referred to as Mutter bottles which was how Bowmore commercially presented their whiskies in the 19th century.

Without a doubt, The Mutters’ biggest contribution to Bowmore was the construction of a mechanism which allowed the distillery to directly draw water from the River Laggan.

Hard Times & The Birth of Bowmore

Despite their efforts, an economic depression caused a drop in the demand for whisky. This lead the Mutter Twins to sell the distillery in 1887, after owning it for 50 years, to John Bell Sherriff from the Campbeltown region of Scotland.

Less than a decade later, the distillery was sold yet again to a consortium headed by a man named Joseph Robert Holmes, who finally renamed the distillery to the Bowmore Distillery Co.

Old Faces & World War II

In 1925, the distillery’s ownership changed hands back to its previous owners, The Sherriff family, to run Bowmore’s daily operations once again.

When World War II broke out and reached the UK, Bowmore ceased production and the distillery was used as a base for the RAF Coastal Command to help with war efforts.

It’s been said that three different military squadrons operated from the distillery between 1940-1943.

Bowmore’s Bicentenary & A Royal Visit

In 1979, Bowmore released that rare (and limited) beauty of a bottle pictured on the left to celebrate their 200th anniversary! The bottle’s shape was meant to be a tribute to the aforementioned Mutter bottles which they used back in 1779.

Just one year later, Bowmore had the honour of receiving Queen Elizabeth II at their distillery. This was a special occasion for the Queen as she had never been to a scotch distillery prior to Bowmore’s.

The Queen was presented with complimentary casks and bottles from the Bowmore distillery. Several bottles which were made from her cask were later sold off to raise money for local charities.

Islay’s Oldest Distillery Today

Source: Suntory

If the picture above wasn’t enough of a clue, Bowmore today is owned by the Beam Suntory conglomerate, who acquired the legendary distillery in 2014 (which also happens to be the same year both companies merged).

While Bowmore has various expressions out right now, we here at The Good Stuff are only carrying the classic and deliciously smoky Bowmore 12 Year Old from their core range of expressions.

The Bowmore 12 Year Old

(RM258) | *Click on the photo above to view on our shop page.

Bowmore’s 12 Year Old expression exhibits some beautiful coastal notes accompanied by some gentle peat. The balance between its peatiness and floral elements presents a great entry that just screams – classic Bowmore.

  • Nose: Coastal smoke, orange zest, lemon slices, floral.
  • Palate: Lovely and rounded, honeyed, vanilla, perfumed smoke, coastal elements, dark peat, oily sweetness.
  • Finish: Smoky and long. Sea spray, dry grass, a touch of ash and citrus.
  • Overall: Classic stuff and the heart of the Bowmore range. Smoky, fruity, coastal, delicious.

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