Bowmore whisky embraces tradition, from its historic distillery down to its classic Scotch products. Founded over 240 years ago, the brand has expanded its reach around the globe over time but still stays true to its roots. It’s the second most popular whisky produced on Scotland’s Islay island (Laphroaig is in the top spot), but its rich history makes it stand out as a brand to remember in a crowded whisky field.
By incorporating nods to its home isle through the use of unique flavors, traditional malting floors, and a focus on location, Bowmore’s single-malt expressions are strong examples of classic Scotch whisky.
Read on for 10 more things you should know about Bowmore.
It was the first distillery to call ‘whisky island’ home.
Situated on Scotland’s West Coast is the seaside Isle of Islay, popularly known as ‘whisky island’ for its array of Scotch whisky distillers. Nine operating whisky distilleries call Islay home, but only one can boast the title of being the first. Bowmore has been around since 1779, making it the second-oldest Scotch brand in the world. It was also the first Islay distillery to receive its license, in 1816.
It makes a mean peated whisky.
The island of Islay has established itself as one of the best in the business when it comes to producing peated whiskies with distinctive smoky flavors. Peat — decayed, organic matter burned for fuel — is found in abundance in Islay and imparts a strong scent to spirits. When burned in distilleries, the smoke flavors the malted barley, which gives the final liquid a notable, peaty taste. Bowmore does peated whisky particularly well, showing off a characteristic smokiness in its bottle while also tasting of red berries and violets. It’s one of our favorite peated whisky picks time and time again.
Bowmore’s name has a rocky history.
The brand itself isn’t entirely sure where it’s name comes from, but it does know that Islay’s geography is somehow involved. The Norse phrase bogha mor, meaning sunken rock, is one plausible origin. There could also be ties to a reef off the Islay sea loch Loch Indaal, as the word bowmore in Gaelic translates to “great reef.” Geologists have long been interested in the rock formations in Islay, which have withstood extreme climate changes throughout history, including an ice age and tropical temperatures. No matter its exact origin, Bowmore’s name is a fitting nod to the geography and history of the island.
The distillery became a landing pad during World War II.
Distilleries across Europe became important locations for housing and organizing soldiers during World War II. Bowmore, along with other Islay distilleries, had a role to play in leading Allied forces to victory, as the distillery’s proximity to the coast made it a valuable resource for the Royal Air Force Coastal Command. The RAF set up shop at the distillery, which ceased production as part of the war effort and operated several sea planes out of Bowmore during the war.
Her Majesty’s first-ever Scotch distillery visit was at Bowmore.
Queen Elizabeth II had never set foot inside a Scotch whisky distillery before 1980. Bowmore became her first. During her tour, a sherry butt cask was filled and gifted to her to commemorate the visit. Several other casks were filled as well, and one was auctioned off to a lucky buyer in 2021. It sold for approximately $8,170.
There’s a Coachella for Scotch whisky — and Bowmore’s one of the headliners.
Instead of pop stars on the stages, this festival surrounds whisky distillers galore. The whisky fest, called Fèis Ìle, brings Scotch lovers together annually for a celebration of the distilleries and culture that make Islay special. The 10-day spectacle takes place in late May, and festival grounds are packed with representatives from Bowmore and the other eight distilleries that call Islay home. Event patrons can sip on limited-edition whiskies, take part in distillery tours, interact with craftspeople, and enjoy musical guests. Whisky enthusiasts from around the world flock to the festival, making it Islay’s top tourist attraction of the year.
Luxury car fans can enjoy a luxury whisky made with them in mind.
If 007 wasn’t such a Martini fan, we bet he’d drive his Aston Martin DB5 home after a long day and pour a glass of Bowmore’s Aston Martin collaboration whisky. The famous luxury car brand — known in large part for its appearance in the Bond films — launched its current partnership with Bowmore in 2020 in hopes that luxury lovers would be drawn to the collab. The first collaboration, Black Bowmore 1964, featured only 25 bottles of rare single-malt whisky. Each bottle incorporated a real DB5 piston into its design and sold for over $65,000.
Looking for a hotel? You can stay with Bowmore.
A distillery experience doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down and it’s time to fall asleep. Bowmore offers two lodging options for whisky-loving tourists: Harbour Inn and Bowmore Cottages. Choose the Harbour Inn for a more traditional hotel experience, complete with a restaurant and bar that serves up local grub and, of course, glasses of Bowmore whisky. History lovers might consider booking a stay at one of the five Bowmore Cottages, which have been around since the 1840s and housed distillery workers back in the day.
Thanks to Bowmore, local swimmers will never go cold.
The Bowmore Hotel (which has no relation to the distillery or its lodging) is located so close to the Bowmore distillery, it benefits from the same heating system the whisky does. Bowmore has a waste heat recovery system that recycles the hot air used in the process of drying barley. The hot air gets reused when more barley is ready to dry, and some of the excess is sent straight to the nearby pool.
In some countries, you can add Bowmore to your Amazon cart.
It’s hard to remember a time where everything you could possibly want wasn’t available online, but it took until 2018 for Amazon to release its own exclusive single-malt whisky from Bowmore. This wasn’t the e-commerce giant’s first foray into the beverage alcohol game, but it was Amazon’s first time selling an exclusive whisky product. The Bowmore bottle in question is a 19-year-old Scotch aged in French oak and Château Lagrange red wine barrels. It’s currently for sale in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Italy, France, and Japan but has yet to become available on the American market.