After an overnight stay in Islay's capital, Bowmore, we awoke feeling refreshed and wondered down to the Bowmore distillery, not five minutes away. One of the oldest on the island, it still traditionally floor malts its own barley. With a busy day ahead of us we only had time for a brief stop in the shop, but I'd love to return to do the tour.
The shop staff were friendly and those who had returned from the previous tour seemed happy enough. We peeked in at the exhibition, a trophy cabinet full of awards then the next tour group were gathering so we departed. A tantalising first glimpse.
Not having tried Bowmore before I was keen to pick up some samples and a three-pack of miniatures was reasonably priced. I also loved the ceramic water jugs, but decided I'd probably break it on the journey home and left it for another day.
The 12 year old pours a dark honey amber. The nose transports you to a Viking feasting hall: dirt floors sodden with spilt mead and the previous nights' peat fire still smouldering in the hearth. Pick up some of those ashes, mix with mead and you have the Bowmore 12 year old. Honey and fire, brash and boisterous.
The 15 year old (darkest) has an enticing aroma of honeyed peaches. Sweet heather honey and sisal at first and exquisitely smooth it finishes with a brief flurry of peat activity then juicy peaches.
The 18 year old is a musty coat closet with tweed and leather. Fiery at first it soon sweetens. The peatiness has all but disappeared and leaves behind a rich, fruity spirit which is very warming in finish.
A good bunch, which I shall certainly purchase in larger format when my supplis need replenishing. My favourite? Probably the 15 y/o for the blend of peat, fire, fruit and honey.
Also in Bowmore is the fantastic Lochside hotel, with over 300 single malts, the majority from Islay with rare bottlings and even some old Port Ellen stuff. Very pricey however, definitely one for the wealthier tourists.