Bowmore 12 year old early 1990’s

Bowmore 12 year old

Each time I sit down to write a piece about Bowmore its one about frustration and disappointment. I just cannot shake off these overwhelming emotions. You see as great as it once was, today it’s current range is nothing to write home about or get involved with.

Adding to this is the fact it should (like a couple of other distilleries I could mention) be involved in creating liquid greatness. It’s a fantastic distillery to visit and that warehouse is just a stunning moment with the waves crashing against the outer wall. So why isn’t Bowmore great? 

There may have been a lack of investment for years but since it has been under Suntory control since 1994 by now they should have brought everything into the modern age and it looked like that when I last visited. There have been some independent bottlings that have revived interest particularly for the most part when the Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottle a sherry cask. That reminds you of how great Bowmore can be. Then you head back to the official range; try it and then realise nope it’s still underwhelming.

Honestly, I don’t think there is one specific reason. I do think there is a common theme when you consider some of the distilleries now under the ownership of Beam Suntory (as they are called today) with Auchentoshan and Laphroaig perhaps being prime examples compared to Glen Garioch, but Ardmore is starting on this path now. 

It’s clear that there is a drive across this trio towards No Age Statement whiskies. Laphroaig is churning out new editions on an almost annual basis with the price forever creeping upwards. Unfortunately the quality and dramming experiencing is going down with every release. Sadly you won’t read much of that elsewhere online as I’m sure Suntory won’t be receptive to negative or critical reviews. Bowmore has had its own versions for travel retail and the Devil’s Cask range that finished on a very low note.

Auchentoshan? Well it took me years to find an official example that I felt was reasonable in this vertical tasting. The bottle-your-own at the distillery still remains the ultimate Auchentoshan and generates the question – why don’t you bottle more like this? It’s time to fight back and if these lacklustre editions fail to sell then they’ll have to think again.

All of this has very little to do with this Bowmore 12 year old which obviously has an age statement! It was bottled in the early 1990’s at 43% strength and is often referred to as the screen print label release. This was discontinued shortly after Suntory took over the distillery in 1994. I approach this with caution as there have been some soapy Bowmore’s from this era, which taps into my general disappointment with the official bottlings.  

Bowmore 12 year old 1990’s – review

Colour: syrup
On the nose: a light peat, compost and a minty freshness. An autumnal element with port scratchings as well. Wood shavings and a slight smoke with tinned pineapples.
In the mouth: expecting more on the palate at first there’s ham hock and peat but then a watery followed by the dreaded Bowmore soap. Yuck. A peaty soap, or a bath in a peat bog.  


Such a disappointment after what was a decent enough nosing to then have it totally snatched away by the dreaded soap. Once you’ve noticed it, there’s no getting away from it whatsoever. This shouldn’t have been bottled in this form.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Douglas Hoyt says:

    In Madison, Wisconsin in the 1980’s I used to pick up the Bowmore 12 for around $19 a bottle and it was deep, rich, with a peat charm all its sweet own. Then one day in the 1990’s I picked up a bottle of Bowmore and there was the soap. Try after try, it was undrinkable. I put it in a very large padded envelope and mailed it back to the distillery in Scotland. After that followed the Bowmore Dust and Darkest and other undrinkables that established finally that this distillery had gone off the rails. The one I find halfway enjoyable now is the Bowmore 10, usually found at Duty Free.

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Douglas

      Fantastic you sent it back. More consumers should do the same when faced with a disappointing whisky.

      Bowmore went off the rails due to production changes. Whereas today, it’s all about margins and getting away with whisky murder – much like Laphroaig, which shares the same owner. Today’s Bowmore is very disappointing indeed

      Cheers, Jason.

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