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February 3, 2023

How Bowmore Whisky became Islay’s most admired single malt

By Sponsored Content

Whisky has witnessed an explosion in popularity, with sales having surged over the past year. Here, we find out how the first licensed Islay distillery, Bowmore, has balanced tradition with innovation across more than 240 years

Bowmore, the original and oldest licensed distillery on Islay – an island of the Inner Hebrides – has, since its creation back in 1779, harnessed the perfect conditions to create unparalleled flavours of whisky.

For more than 240 years, the Bowmore Distillery has been capturing the essence of Islay from the shores of its remote island home. Shaped by centuries of skill and tradition, Bowmore’s single malt harnesses its rich heritage in every single drop. But how has the brand, described as the ‘caretakers of time’, become a leader in the world of single malts?

Bowmore’s traditions stand the test of time

We start by looking at Bowmore’s handcrafted traditions, passed down through generations. To this day, the distillery still operates in traditional ways, honouring original whisky-making techniques. The distillery’s floor malting process is a perfect example of this. While this is now considered a niche practice in the industry, Bowmore is one of the few distilleries that use this age-old tradition to malt its own barley.

Calling on the skills and techniques harnessed over its 240-plus years, malt is hand-turned in periods of between five and seven days in Bowmore’s very own Malt Barn. Bowmore believes these methods allow for the shaping of flavour at the very first stage, adding depth to develop fruitier notes for its multi-dimensional single malt.

Bowmore then takes time to ferment using clear wort and a blend of yeasts, drawing out the full-bodied notes that started to build in the floor malting process. Designed to add more flavour, the fermentation process takes at least 48 hours. 

It’s also no surprise to learn that Bowmore has invested in top quality casks over the years – first-fill European oak barrels, ex-bourbon barrels and sherry casks. Each cask is stacked in Bowmore’s maturation warehouses, including the legendary No.1 Vaults. It is here that each cask gradually absorbs the gentle Islay sea air to finish off the maturation process – a claim few distilleries can make.

The essence of Islay with a twist

Bowmore is no stranger to innovation. From its partnership with Aston Martin, a collaboration rooted in a shared set of inspiring values, to the Bowmore Timeless Series, the distillery has established itself as a vanguard of single malt innovation. The Timeless Series celebrates years of definitive character – a balance of smoke, exotic fruit and sea salt – to reflect the long-standing legacy.

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In collaboration with Aston Martin, Bowmore’s master blender, Ron Welsh, worked to create something never seen in the world of whisky – the adoption of the ‘Golden Ratio’. Coming together with Aston Martin’s executive vice president and chief creative officer, Marek Reichman, to bridge the gap between whisky and automotive design, the concept of the Golden Ratio – the mathematical ratio found in nature that creates aesthetically pleasing compositions – was applied to the heart of the blend. Each part of the whisky (there are six parts in total) is in ratio to the other part of the liquid, bringing each element their own unique flavours. 

Created through a new lens from which to explore whisky making, this series, named Bowmore Masters’ Selection, marks a new future for whisky, one that encourages new definitions for what we know whisky to be, such as the use of the Golden Ratio. The series already features two limited-edition bottles following the second edition release in October 2022, while the third will be available to collectors and whisky lovers in 2023.

How Bowmore goes beyond classic ‘Islay’ style

Islay is home to some of the oldest strata in the world. While Bowmore has drawn inspiration from these stunning surroundings over the years, the distillery has always strived to build a distinctive character that sets it apart from the rest. 

With an appreciation for the impact each step in the making of its single malt has on the character of the whisky, Bowmore has spent many years steering the flavours at every stage and staying true to its desire never to define itself by other whiskies.

So, whether you’re tasting Bowmore’s 12, 15 and 18 Year Old Single Malts – with their smoky and fresh stone fruit notes – the Bowmore Timeless Series with notes of summer blossom and vanilla, or Bowmore Masters’ Selection with sweet honey and spicy pepper notes, one thing’s for certain: you’ll know you’re drinking Islay’s most revered whisky.

Order your copy of The Spear’s 500 2023 here.

Images: Bowmore

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How Bowmore and Aston Martin have harnessed ‘heritage and innovation’ to create the ARC-52 whisky

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