After visiting the Speyside region, throwing in some lowlands whisky distillery, visiting awesome whisky places, we’ve finally got to the most exciting leg of our Oct 2013 tour – visiting my favorite Island, Islay!
We took the morning flight from Glasgow to Islay, picked up the rented car we ordered and drove to our first Islay Distillery tour – Bowmore.
We pre-booked the distillery Craftsmans Tour and upon arrival we found this awaiting us:
While we waited for our guide we looked around and savored the bottles on display there: Black & White Bowmores (with price tag of 6000 each), Bowmore 1957(!) and many others.
Then our guide arrived, and to our pleasant surprise we found out we’re the only guys that booked the tour – so private tour is it!
So onward we went, going through all phases of the distillation process. First stop – the malting floors. Bowmore is one of few distilleries still owning and using malting floors. They are malting 40% of their in-house:
We then moved to the Klin and Drying room. I can tell you it’s hot in there. There are machines that turns the drying malt, but at the edge of the room it still being turned manually (so the blades won’t get damaged). We were supposed to see the machine in action but it failed to work and soon the distillery manager came with technical team to get it back to work.
Guess where we went next? That’s right, Mash Tun!
Nex stop – wash backs and to the Stills room:
Last stop – the famous Warehouse 1 which resides on the seashore, right on the water. There we tasted 2 casks: a 12yo ex-bourbon cask and 18yo ex-sherry cask to see the impact of the barrel on the whisky. We then passed through the Bottle Your Own cask and tasted it as well. This time we could see clearly the impact of the barrel itself, 2 different 18yo ex-sherry casks and 2 oh-so-different profiles. I of course stopped to purchase and fill a bottle of that delicious 18yo ex-sherry from the cask 🙂
Then we were back to the visitors center to the open bar – we got to taste the Coopers Choice bottle (Available only at the distillery, costs £100), a few more of Bowmore core range whiskies.
And then it was time to move on. Overall, it was a very nice start to our 2 days on Islay. My only gripe with the tour was that for the price of the tour, I’d expect some small BYO like they do in other distilleries. You know – you pay £50 and not getting back any souvenirs or whisky? but still, having a ‘private’ tour on the oldest Islay Distillery was a great experience.
Distillery In a nutshell
Owners: Morrisson Bowmore (Suntory)
Location: Bowmore, Islay
Water source: Laggan River
Stills: 2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
Capacity (yearly): 2,000,000 liter
Tour in a nutshell
Tours availability: Standard Tour – Winter: Weekdays at 10:30am & 3pm, Sat on 10am / Craftsman Tour – by prior booking
Cost of tour: £6 (Standard Tour) / £50 (Craftsman Tour)
Length of tour: 1 hour / 2.5 hours
Distillery Exclusive bottles: Bottle your own (70cl bottle) for £85
Food: No (But you’re in the Island capital so you can get food there)