Bowmore is a brand of single malt Islay Scotch distilled by Morrison Bowmore Distillers, and owned by Suntory, the Japanese brewer and distiller. Bowmore was the first legal distillery on the island of Islay, having been founded in 1779 by John P. Simpson, a local merchant.
At some point between 1779 and 1850, the distillery was bought by James Mutter, a local consul. He introduced many innovative processes at Bowmore, including importing barley and coal and exporting whiskey in an early iron steamship. In the 20th century, Bowmore changed hands multiple times: In 1925, it was bought from the Mutter family by J.B. Sheriff & Co. then in turn sold to William Grigor and Son in 1950.
Like all Scotch distilleries, the first part of the 20th century was difficult. Two wars, the resulting shortages in raw materials and the destruction of export markets led to the mothballing of most distilleries. In 1963, with production resumed, Bowmore was bought by Stanley Morrison and James Howat, who formed Morrison Bowmore Ltd. to run the property. In 1994, Suntory bought the company outright, having been a shareholder for years.
Bowmore is one of the few remaining Scotch producers who malt their own barley and roast it over a peat fire. Their water comes from the River Laggan, which has a high concentration of phenol from contact with peat. The finished whiskey ages in their Number One Vaults, which are below sea level and have one wall that faces the ocean. These combined factors produce a Scotch with subtle oceanic and peat-smoke aromas and flavors. Bowmore is a good Islay Scotch for people just getting into that style, as it is less aggressively phenolic than some Islay whiskies. Bowmore is aged in a variety of used Bourbon, Sherry and wine barrels.
Bowmore makes a wide range of Scotches in various age statements and finishes: Their range starts with Legend, then 12, 15, 18 and 25 year old expressions. In their "finish" range, there is Dusk (finished in wine barrels), Dawn (in Port casks), Darkest (Bourbon barrels then Oloroso Sherry casks), and a cask strength bottling.
At the top of their range, Bowmore makes the Trilogy: Black, White and Gold - all distilled in 1964. Black is from five Oloroso Sherry casks and is 42 years old. White is from six Bourbon barrels and is 43 years old, and Gold comes from three Bourbon and one Oloroso Sherry cask at 44 years old. Each of these bottles is over $4,000.
Bowmore 12 is amber-gold and clear, with aromas of light peat smoke, honey and lemony citrus. It has a midweight texture with a bit of marine flavor, more peat smoke and some honey on the finish. It is the workhorse product in the Bowmore lineup.