So we’ve finally reached Bowmore after working our way around the various distilleries that Islay has to offer. A nice piece of symmetry here, as this was also my final tour on the island and one I had been looking forward to greatly. Bowmore is a malt that I’m keen to discover more about and rather than go for just the standard distillery tour, I splashed out £45 for the Craftsman’s Tour which runs Monday-Thursday and is best to book in advance.
The mashing area is very impressive, a towering structure while the washbacks are named after each of the previous owners, although they’ve run out of room for the current Japanese owners.
Needless to say I’ve taken a whole load of pictures as these are encouraged on the tour. The only area where photos may be an issue is the mill if this was in operation, but during my visit it was static and we could take in another example of these wonderfully durable pieces of engineering. As always my photographs are available here for anyone wanting to see the distillery in greater detail.
The still room was equally as impressive and the theme of access continued. The final stop on the tour before moving back to the visitor centre is arguably the highlight of any tour to Bowmore, the famous No1 Warehouse.
The normal tour allows you to enter the warehouse and view the barrels from within an enclosed area. Now the Craftsman’s Tour goes beyond the screen as the door is unlocked and you walk into the warehouse. This is a moment I will never forget. Casks from the 1950’s around one side and some new arrivals with Japanese casks filled with aged Bowmore as an experiment, and signed by what I can only guess are the Japanese owners. What these casks will provide one day, who knows? There are experiments and treasures in this warehouse.
Photos are not permitted outside of the viewing room yet these would not catch the aromas and sounds of the waves crashing against the sea wall beyond. You read about such places and to be allowed within it was a VIP moment, something I will truly treasure and recommend to any whisky enthusiast. As part of this journey into legends, Heather took me deep into the warehouse where I was able to use a thief tool to take samples from a sherry cask and a bourbon cask. My technique was a little rusty for the sherry cask with a little spillage, but much improved for the 2nd attempt. Then I was able to saviour both before coming up with our own version of a Bowmore blend. For the record I prefer the bourbon cask yet combining both offered something new before tossing the remnants against a particular section of the wall, rich with mould. Sadly, I was driving later that evening so had to watch my intake.