Bowmore 1957 – 54 Years Old Single Malt Whisky

The already legendary Bowmore 1957 – 54 Year Old. It’s Bowmore’s oldest whisky. In fact, it’s also the oldest Islay Single Malt ever released. It was distilled in 1957, and bottled in 2001. It’s been in sitting in oak for a staggering five decades.

The bottles have been “hand-blown and sculpted by two of the world’s foremost glass artists Brodie Nairn and Nichola Burns, into the shape of waves reminiscent of those that constantly crash against the No.1 Vaults’ sea-facing walls”. As if that wasn’t expensive enough, the glass is inlaid with flecks of platinum, one of the rarest precious metals on earth.

There are only 12 bottles in existence in the world. Two of them, bottles No. 1 and No. 2, will be going on auction at Bonhams in Edinburgh on Oct 10 and in New York City on Oct 28. There’s a minimum reserve set at £100,000 per bottle (around $155,000). But here’s the the bonus: all net proceeds from both sales will be donated to five Scottish charities.

It’s been causing a bit of stir online. Some people saying it’s manipulating charity, or that it’s basically a publicity stunt, or even that it’s ridiculous that it costs so much. Perhaps it is and it isn’t.

Firstly, I’d say this ain’t for the likes of you and me (unless you happens to be a millionaire). It’s very, very expensive. No one is making us remortgage our house to have to own it. You don’t have to buy it, even if it makes you angry you can’t own it. I’d love a brand new, top of the range John Cooper Works GP Mini – I’ll just have to settle for the few-years-old Mini Cooper that I currently drive. That’s life. Bowmore 1957 and other similar whiskies are clearly going to be the drinks choice of the 1%.

Anyway, whiskies at this level have always been about brand and prestige, every bit as much as the whisky contained within the bottle. All this fanfare is just something that’s part of the whole aspirational and “cool” aspect of the luxury drinks market, much like for champagne. In a way, it’s meant to be untouchable. It’s meant to be desired. We’re meant to then realise that Bowmore is inherently desirable.

Finally, if you keep something in a barrel for 50 years, it’s going to be expensive. Simple as that. But for Bowmore, it’s actually pretty cool that they’ve managed to hold onto something for so long and managed to put it into a bottle. Why shouldn’t they make a big song and dance about it? This is about celebration of history and heritage, and maybe making a bob or two for charity in the process.

So, yeah, a bit annoying that us mere mortals can’t afford it, but that’s life. In summary, if any eccentric millionaires are reading this and fancy getting their hands on a bottle, please, please, please can I have a sip? (You can just let me sniff it, all right?)


I've written about (and reviewed) whisky for Whisky Magazine, among other publications, and have been a whisky judge for competitions including the World Whiskies Awards. I've done other writing too: several mass market genre novels, a few short stories, including for BBC Radio 4. For my day job (I know, I don't get out much) I work in digital content. Follow me on Instagram.com/maltreview/ or Twitter.com/MaltReview. Generally, my tastes lean towards ex-sherry cask and ex-wine cask influences on the spirit, but I'm not so fussed as long as the whisky's gone into good wood.

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