Whisky Review Round Up: Bowmore 15-, 18-Year-Old

, | March 25, 2020

Editor’s Note: These whiskies was provided to us as review samples by Beam-Suntory. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Bowmore has been around for a while. It can arguably be said to be the oldest legal Islay distillery in Scotland, dating back to 1779. The founder, David Simson is said to have bought the land in 1776. Like many of the other Islay distilleries, Bowmore was established as a “farming distillery.” Its land grant came with farmland where the barley intended for whisky distillation would be grown. The Kildalton distilleries, (Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Ardbeg), were all farming distilleries, and retained their associated farmland until well into the 19th century.

Unlike many other Islay distillers, Bowmore is said to use about half of the peat as the other houses. Another fact is that the distillery continues to hand-turn, malt, and peat its own barley. The whisky is distilled twice and then set to age in their underground storage facilities.

The distillery’s water source is the Laggan River. It rises in ancient pre-Cambrian rocks that, at almost two billion years old, are among the oldest in Europe, and flows into Loch Indaal. The water flows over peat, picking up a brown color and about two-ppm phenol; this is not enough, however, to have a discernable impact on the whisky’s taste.

Read More Whiskey News
Whiskey Review: Garrison Brothers Guadalupe Texas Straight Bourbon

In regards to the various expressions, Bowmore has many. The range is impressive with a handful of 50 year specifically vintaged whiskies, as well as some experiments with more heavily peated options and different wood casks. In any case, I was excited to get reacquainted with the brand, reviewing here the 15- and 18-year-old core expressions.

Bowmore 15-, 18-Year-Old

Bowmore 15-, 18-Year-Old (image via Beam-Suntory)

Tasting Notes: Bowmore 15 Year

Vital Stats: Aged 15 years, 86 proof, 43% ABV. Aged in ex-bourbon barrel and then spent three years in Oloroso barrel. $77 per 750ml bottle.

Appearance: Pale orange or light rust

Nose: Some smoke, honeydew, with a touch of chestnut.

Palate: Melon flavors followed by some peat, medium bodied, sherry, and some white pepper spice.

Final Thoughts: I’ll admit, didn’t taste too much difference between these two. The main difference being the bit of spice in this one. Same honeydew and peat notes, and both carrying multiple layers of flavor. Personally, I appreciate the peppery influence in this one a tad bit more than the older, but to each their own.

Score: 4.5/5

Tasting Notes: Bowmore 18 Year

Vital Stats: Aged 18 years, 86 proof, 43% ABV. Aged in ex-bourbon barrel and then in sherry barrel. $131 per 750ml bottle.

Appearance: Pale orange or light rust

Nose: Green apple, followed by pine, sherry, and some peat.

Palate: Super complex, there’s a lot going on here. A blend of dark chocolate, honeydew, smoke and sherry.

Final Thoughts: This was a fun one. You can sniff, swirl, taste again and again. The complexity is astounding. There’s a unique balance between the fruit and peated elements that makes this one a win.

Read More Whiskey News
Whiskey Review: Limavady Single Barrel Irish Single Malt Whiskey, Barrel No. 0136

Score: 4/5

User Review
3.23 (13 votes)


Kenji Mizumori

Kenji is a bartender in Portland, Oregon at the Pope House Bourbon Lounge. A bourbon enthusiast for decades. He likes big whiskeys, pretty much anything over 100 proof.