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The St Andrews Brewing Co. Pub

The new craft brewing pub in St Andrews.

Picture it: you’re an independent brewing collective with a contemporary approach, you focus on craft, quality and novelty, and you have opened your first pub in a notoriously moneyed area of golf-mad Scotland. What whiskies do you source for the back bar?

For Bob, Tim and friends of the St Andrews Brewing Company this was their challenge ahead of opening their new BrewPub on South Street, St Andrews. Truth be told, I’ve never been able to stomach ales, stouts, porters, beers in general. Therefore, the sixteen hand-pulled brews and countless refrigerated bottles were not my main concern when the boys opened their doors last week. I was all about the whiskies.

A couple of weeks beforehand, legendary distiller Eddie MacAffer set up stall in the new BrewPub to guide us through three Morrison Bowmore single malts paired with some choice morsels (salmon smoked with Auchentoshan cask shavings paired with Auchentoshan Threewood; Bowmore Darkest with dark chocolate and Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve with Isle of Mull cheddar). Visitor Centre Development Manager for the group, Anne Kinnes, was also there to tell us a little more about the tourism facilities available at MBD’s outstanding distilleries. The BrewPub accommodated us all superbly: indulgently supple leather chairs, wholesome wood and a couple of log-burning stoves made for a homely evening and when Jordan told me that they intended to stock forty whiskies from opening – building to about a hundred - I sensed it would become my second home.

The main bar at the St Andrews Brewing Co.

So how to kit yourself out with the best spirits and ensure you aren’t playing it too safe? With the help of Graeme Broom (Straight Up Whisky), the guys have a most intriguing selection. The first thing you will notice is the heavy prevalence of Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice bottlings. I counted a Teaninich, Clynelish, Arran and Dailuaine while G&M’s own malt distillery, Benromach had a number of expressions such as the rich, pungent Organic, the smoky, soft 10yo and the bracing Peat Smoke. Another great addition is the rich, vanilla-driven Bruichladdich Scottish Barley.

The whisky cupboard.

Finally, however, I can get Compass Box whiskies at a bar in St Andrews. They carry The Peat Monster, Oak Cross and Great King Street. Checking the list, I clocked a Woodford Reserve for the Bourbon fans, Wemyss Spice King 12yo and The Hive 12yo for blended malts and even a Green Spot to keep those with a taste for Irish whiskey happy (i.e., me). The best news? I think the most expensive dram on the list weighs in at £7. As the evenings darken and the air becomes ever more frigid, the St Andrews Brewing Co. would appear to be the ideal venue to drive out the chills. Once they extend their license beyond 11PM, of course, but I’m assured that will be very soon.

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Morrison Bowmore at the Quaich Society (2)

The six super serves at the Morrison Bowmore Quaich Society tasting.

If ‘Holy Triumvirate’ is going a tad too far, I do get rather excited at the prospect of Morrison Bowmore’s tantalising trio of fantastic distilleries paying a visit and so do the whisky drinkers of St Andrews. Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch have all acquired a recent reputation for quirky but high-quality releases, many of which landed in our Glencairn glasses – courtesy of Gordon Dundas – earlier this month.

Over the course of a very enjoyable 6-dram tasting, Gordon was the perfect foil to the whiskies under his stewardship: plain speaking, but full of warmth and humour, it was a fiery, engaging evening.

We kicked off with Auchentoshan, a brand doing great things with their younger, fruitier releases. The first of our whiskies on the night, the Three Wood, takes centre-stage in a new transatlantic cocktail competition. Auchentoshan Switch is the brand’s attempt to engage bartenders in America and Europe, switching them on to the powerful flavours in this delicate Lowland malt before switching around the creators of the winning Auchentoshan cocktails to work in the bars on their counterparts: Europe goes to America and vice versa. Read more about the competition – and vote for your favourite cocktails – here.

The Three Wood made a favourable impression on most in the room, but I was interested in its stablemate, the Valinch 2012. As Gordon said, these two expressions could not be further apart on the flavour specrum: soft, sweet and rich Sherry oak plays creamy, fruity ex-Bourbon oak at cask strength. This had a sparkly nose, the barley boasting a boiled sweet character in addition to apple and orange. Lemon, banana and vanilla shortbread showed themselves. The palate also ‘sparkled’ somewhat with maltiness again and clean nutmeg from the cask. Lovely.

Those who don’t know about my abiding, dutiful love for the Glen Garioch distillery are obviously recent readers of the Scotch Odyssey Blog. Hence, while people were picking apart the variously sensuous and scintillating flavours of the Auchentoshan offerings, I was some way ahead, courting the Glen Garioch 1995.

Another of the acclaimed vintage releases, the 1995 represents the last litres produced prior to the distillery’s closure by Suntory in the same year,. At this time, there was also a trace of peat smoke to be found in Glen Garioch from the malting process, which was not the case after the reopening of the plant in 1997. This I found to be a highly accomplished dram with the best of first fill Bourbon characteristics coming through. I felt, however, that the butterscotch and coconut drowned out the complex honeyed dustiness of the distillery profile. It was good, but not a Glen Garioch as far as I was concerned. In answer to a question about different peating levels and cut points in the three distilleries’ production regimes, Gordon had said that ‘we produce the same spirit and let the casks do the talking’. This had happened quite spectacularly with the 1995.

Skipping over the fourth pour – the always majestic Bowmore Darkest – we arrived at a unique compare-and-contrast opportunity. More or less on a whim, Gordon had decided to bring along two Tempests to the party: Batch 3 and the not-yet released Batch 4.

Bowmore Tempest 4 55.1%

Nose – swimming pools and cloudy lemonade. Very salty. Sandalwood and a gentle cigar-ash smokiness. Thyme honey. Leathery, very smooth and clean.

Palate – full and rounded with plenty of sweetness and fruits. Fudge and river rushes, before it becomes more and more honeyed.

The balance of this latest release over Batch 3 was evident, with a harmonising interplay between smoke, oak and spirit. I think I preferred the punch of Batch 3 on the night, but can attest to this as another exemplary bottling from the Bowmore team.

Gordon’s generosity extended to the Raffle: the revelation that a full bottle of the latest Tempest would find a lucky new owner forced hands back into pockets for donations. On behalf of the Quaich Society we would like to think him for an extremely informative and entertaining tasting during which the standard of whisky and anecdote never dipped.

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The Water of Life of Luxury

For a number of years, whisky – and single malt whisky especially – has cultivated an aura of exclusivity, luxury and extravagance. Who has not encountered the gentrified still-life of a mahogany-hued dram, sipped in a moment of leisure picked out in leather, oak, and expensive curtains? It has come to symbolise the finer things in life, but if a recent visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh for the inaugural Whisky Luxe is any guide, it would appear that there are the finer things of the finer things.

My invite to this ‘exclusive event’, in which I would surely ’indulge’ myself in ‘the most iconic whisky brands’ peddling their ‘esteemed whiskies’, fortuitously came with a 40% discount on the price of admission. Had it not, this evening of super-premium posing at the more moneyed mutation of the Whisky Live series of events would have been beyond my means. As it was, I could just about stretch to £75 for a pre-birthday beano.

Red carpet treatment at the first Whisky Luxe, Edinburgh.

Bagpipes, a red carpet and glamorous ladies in frocks greeted me at the summit of the Royal Mile on Friday. A typical Thursday night tasting at the Quaich Society this was not. I ducked into the Scotch Whisky Experience to receive my black giftbag which contained a wodge of Whisky Magazine-related freebies and my purse of little gold coins which would purchase my whiskies. To my dismay, they hadn’t included a pair of size-10 shoes that fitted with any comfort, but that is a separate cautionary tale.

I had hoped to play the seasoned whisky event attendee: swan about inspecting the stalls and constructing a list of must-tries. However, no sooner had I arrived in the Castlehill Room than I could not resist arrowing across to the Balblair stall to commence with the luxurious liquid. Andy Hannah, brand manager for Balblair, and Lukasz Dynowiak were on hand to answer my questions about the distillery and their hopes for the evening. The new online community they have established, The Gathering Place, was high on their agenda. With the 2002, 1989 3rd Release and 1975 2nd Release in attendance, though, top quality drams were a chief priority, too.

The Dewar's stand.

Other highlights on the top floor was the Dewar’s stand, where a little cask filled with ‘flavoured’ whisky dispensed a sweet, smooth spirit with a pleasant tannic bite on the palate. This is one of the many experiments emerging from the blended whisky brand in tribute to new archive research.

My next port of call was Whyte and MacKay in the Amber Restaurant. Here I met and had a splendid conversation with Graham Rushworth who described his blustery new year on Islay, the cheeky swig of The Dalmore Trinitas he enjoyed in Richard Paterson’s office and the new all-singing all-dancing distillery tour available on the shores of the Cromarty Firth before eventually and most enjoyably, talking me through The Dalmore 18yo. Another whisky that benefits from the best of W&M’s extraordinary wood stocks, I found this pleasantly fresh for an 18 with grassy sweetness, plum, and coffee on the nose. The accumulated weight of oak registered on the palate, however, with rich chocolate and dried fruits all accented with creamy vanilla.

The Auchentoshan stand.

After catching up with Paul Goodwin on the Morrison Bowmore stand – an extremely self-contented corner of the room following a host of gongs from the latest Icons of Whisky Awards (Distiller of the Year, Distillery Manager of the Year and Ambassador of the Year) – I pottered about the venue a little more. This took me to the McIntyre Gallery where I spoke with Andrew Shand of Duncan Taylor over a delightful measure of Octave Cardhu 22yo. The planned distillery in Huntly which I read about a couple of years ago is still in the pipeline, although investment is proving difficult in these straightened times. Of more immediate excitement is their new Rarest range, represented on the night by a very special bottling of the Macallan. In a bespoke decanter and with the presentation box constructed from the cask in which the whisky matured, this was a visually stunning product. Sadly there was none to taste.

Drams of Glen Garioch 1995 and Smokehead followed, but the unexpected star shone in the Claive Vidiz Collection Room. I tagged on to a tasting led by Dr Kirstie McCallum of Burn Stewart who was explaining the Bunnahabhain 25yo with the kind of passion and knowledge you would expect from a global brand ambassador. As I nosed this deep, rich and sweet delight, my mind trickled back to the Sound of Islay and this beautiful, character-packed distillery. Sea salt and candied orange tickled my nose, but when we were asked for our thoughts I blurted out ‘exotic handwash – but in a good way!’ Kirstie replied that she was unlikely to forget that particular descriptor.

Emma Smith and Graham Rushworth for The Dalmore.

A hastily-grabbed dark chocolate and whisky mousse was the last tasty morsel of an enthralling evening. All exhibitors praised the relaxed and congenial atmosphere, and they relished the opportunity to properly discuss their products rather than simply dispensing them which appears to be the modus operandi for the majority of whisky functions. Huge congratulations must go to Chloe Leighton who organised the event, as well as all visiting ambassadors and Scotch Whisky Experience staff. I thoroughly enjoyed making the acquaintance of some of the most desirable whiskies in the world – but will wear another pair of shoes next year.

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Morrison Bowmore at the Quaich Society

The broad range of Morrison Bowmore whiskies.

We on the Quaich Society committee have worked out by now that our members, while impressed by a five-dram verticle tasting encompassing the most senior reaches of a distillery’s range, especially love ‘horizontal’ tastings. Hopes were high, therefore, for Morrison Bowmore. A company that can boast the most balanced or Islay malts, with sea spray, peat and fruity toffee, the only exclusively triple-distilled single malt in Scotland and the only distillery that has let me strip off in its still room was sure to go down well with the Quaich Society. The only pity was that, due to a change of date, more people couldn’t attend.

When Paul Goodwin needed a second trip to the car to bring in the last of the expressions he hoped to present before us, we interpretted it as a good sign. In the end, we hadn’t the glassware to sneak in the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve, too.

Paul Goodwin, modelling jacket and waistcoat in Bowmore Tweed.

Debonair in Bowmore Tweed (‘I thought St Andrews was the right place to try it out,’ he replied wittily), Paul guided us through the dizzying range of styles on offer, starting with the Auchentoshan. The jump from the dried apple and biscuit scents of the Classic to the punchy crushed red fruits and almost earthiness of the Three Wood was startling. Gratifying was how both recalled my 18th birthday and the VIP tour of the distillery. With the Classic there was a delicacy of sweetness, balanced by a burly dryness. On the palate, the first fill Bourbon barrels made their presence felt with a charred quality and creaminess.

The Three Wood was to be many peoples’ favourite dram of the night, including an ever-curious Doug Clement who kept Paul busy fielding questions. Despite having announced pre-tasting that he was more heavily involved in the sales side of the business, Paul’s whisky knowledge was exceptional and our resident industry insider and glass patron returned to his drams, satisfied with the information received. A little snippet I hadn’t been privy to was the cost to whisky of the Second World War. Due to its proximity to Glasgow, wee Auchentoshan must have looked to the Luftwaffe like a weapons-grade storage facility (a mistake the British government repeated in the last decade in Iraq, funnily enough) and bombed the place. 300,000 litres of maturing spirit were lost.

To Islay now, however, and the peat heads in the room started to get excited. The Bowmore 12yo is a great whisky to start with period, but as in introduction to Islay’s delights it works very well. Ferny, heathery peat on the nose developed into sea shore aromas with sharp, crunchy malt. The palate was balanced and rich, with a sweet sootiness and honey. Paul recommended it with seafood.

The Bowmore Darkest chocolate.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t bring along any oysters,’ Paul continued as we turned to the 15yo Darkest, but he handed out some dark chocolate instead. The Lindt was felt to compliment the heavy Sherry tones the whisky picks up from its three-year finish in European oak. The potent result gained a rum-like quality when paired with the chocolate. Separately, I got a very strong chorizo aroma at first with a lot of paprika. This became salty with an undertow of gooey-ness. Red apple, too. On the palate the saltiness and chorizo continued with brown, almost dirty peat and burning straw. I wasn’t sure about this one, although others were won over by its distinctive personality. The Tempest releases for me still hold greater interest than the Sherry-accented Bowmores.

When selecting the Glen Garioch component, Paul had been in a very generous mood. Despite being a spirit many had not come across – and many more could not pronounce – the core range had been overlooked in favour of one of the latest vintages. The 53.9% 1994, all Bourbon-matured was the final dram of the evening and was it different. Very creamy on the nose at first, there was oak grip and alcohol depth. Apricot and wholemeal bread appeared. With water the delivery was sweeter with orange as well as a creaminess. Pepper, lime and shortbread came later. The palate provided barley sugar, banana, charred cask, biscuit and gentle smoke, vanilla emerging with the addition of water.

In his delivery for the distillery, Paul mentioned the ’craft’ word more than once. With a capacity of 1,000,000 litres, it is actually producing below this so certainly isn’t a behemoth of a plant. While not in the Kilchoman league – as Paul admitted when challenged by Mr Clement - there is greater scope for doing something different with the brand as the 48% bottling strength of the Founder’s Reserve and 12yo, together with the vintage releases, confirm.

What I wanted to know more about was the consequence to these brands of the highly-publicised transfer of Rachel Barrie to Morrison Bowmore. ‘Would she,’ I asked, ‘have the same scope to create different expressions like she did with the Glenmorangie Signet etc.?’ Paul’s answer was the measured, but promising, ‘watch this space’.

Masses of Morrison Bowmore merchandise was very kindly donated by Paul for our raffle, and Quaich Society members dug in their pockets to be in with a chance of walking away with a whole bottle of Glen Garioch 12yo or a Bowmore polo shirt as well as other prizes. Our thanks go to Paul for a superb tasting, and we hope to see him back again with more expressions from these diverse stables – perhaps bearing the Barrie signature.

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Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve

Surprising, isn’t it, that I haven’t posted any notes of my most significant distillery, my more-than-whisky distillery, or what I suppose others call their favourite distillery? Expressions are hard to come by and I wasn’t blown away by their new 12yo. Whilst pleasantly sweet, citrussy and peppery, I always suspected this, the Founder’s Reserve and restorative-and-a-half at the distillery in April last year, was the more rewarding dram.

The new entry-level expression following the relaunch in late 2008, this has no age statement but is non-chillfiltered and bottled at 48% abv. It’s potent stuff and boasts its ex-Bourbon maturation. I filled a little sample flask from my 70cl bottle – purchased by my aunt for my 20th birthday – earlier in the year so that I might have some Glen Garioch in St Andrews when the anniversary of my Aberdeenshire purgatory and redemption struck, and it was what I sipped at the end of last month as we raced away from St Andrews and the end of my first year there for the Rush Time Machine concert which was taking place in Newcastle that night. In short, it has featured in a few singular moments over the last fourteen months or so.

Glen Garioch Founder's ReserveGlen Garioch Founder’s Reserve 48% abv. £29

Colour – Rich full gold with peachy tones.

Nose – At first, sugary-sweet draff/worts notes and sticky but firm honeycomb. More cerealy draff appears with a stab of alcohol then medium grade dark chocolate. I always detect a strawberry note and it is joined here by a sweet nuttiness. Crumbly earthiness and hedgerow berries. Very clean and citrussy with good body to it.

      Water lightens the spectrum although the oakiness becomes richer with more toffee and creamy vanilla shortbread. Stewed red fruits appear with sweet malt and dryness. Stem ginger and lemon boiled sweets. Chunks of butterscotch. A bit more time reveals heather honey, toasted oak and strawberry jam. Overall very chunkily malty.

Palate – Rich malt and oak, then lighter cereal sweetness and a flash of clean citrus. Spicy. Red fruits and red apples emerge.

      Water makes for a richer and even fruitier experience. We begin with fruitcake although this morphs into slightly burnt oat biscuits. Lemony and syrupy notes come in later with more stewed fruit.

Finish – Chocolatey and biscuity. Soft malt with the dryish draff note from the nose reappearing. Honey on thick toast. Clean and firm.

      Water accentuates a smoothness and juiciness. Things become heathery with some delicate sweet spice from the oak. Vanilla and cinnamon, too. Stewed fruits and especially apple. Caramel and citrus.

I don’t go into the cupboard for this dram terribly often, but when I do it always surprises me. The barley malt profile is deep and complex, with a fruitiness, earthiness, caramel sweetness yet also dustiness. It is a shame Glen Garioch no longer malts its own barley but I can imagine the atmosphere of aromas that must have existed when it did, just by nosing this whisky. That dustiness is something I noted with the 1991 Vintage and I’m not sure how to account for it: it is at once a note which distinguishes it from other Highland malts but is also slightly alien at first.

Following my unforgettable experiences to get there last year, and the very different kind of tour I received once I arrived, my spiritual side wants to explore more of the whiskies from Glen Garioch. Matt and Karen at Whisky For Everyone have just tasted the new 1994 Vintage, and John Hansell at What Does John Know? has recently opened a 21yo from the 1970s as one of his very special drams. As is the case with these oft-overlooked single malts, there are many incarnations kicking around that are just astonishingly good. That they are oft-overlooked does mean, however, that those who do apprehend their potential and charm have a greater chance of being rewarded for their faith.

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The Scotch Whisky Experience

The Scotch Whisky Experience

Discreetly tucked away in prime location on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile since 1988, The Scotch Whisky Experience benefitted in 2009 from a £3-million renovation, bringing its brand, mission statement, and experience overall, in line with the expansive and diverse nature nof Scotch whisky in the 21st Century. Since my very first visit in July of last year it has become one of my favourite Scotch whisky establishments.

The revamped tour begins in the bowels of the building as you clamber into a ghost train-style truck in the shape of an enormous whisky barrel. This will cart you, like a little grain of barley, on a linear journey through the premises and the whisky-making process. Appropriately, there is in fact a ghost on-hand to explain each stage of production to the visitor: lang deid distiller, Douglas McIntyre. He is authentic and diverting company, venting the occasional harmless Scots imprecation whenever he comes off a little worse-for-wear along the way, in the mill or the stills. His narration is contextualised by smells, sights and sounds. Even for the seasoned distillery tourer, this ride from grain to cask is rather fun.

You take leave of your oak cask transportation for ones that don’t move – at least, not until duty is paid on them. The Cooperage area attempts to describe what occurs over the course of maturation after you have put new-make spirit into a wooden barrel or butt. To illustrate this magical transformation and chiefly the acquisition of colour in the spirit, there are samples of whiskies drawn from ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks at various increments of ascending age.

Though invariably led by an enthusiastic twenty-something and highly engaging, the Sense of Scotland talk is one for the novice or casual tourist. However, as your (corporeal) guide discusses the classic characteristics and provides a potted history of Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Islay malts there is one very innovative feature. Each region is denoted a coloured jar and all four sit before you on the bench, placed over corresponding coloured plastic inlays. Within each of these jars is something that approximates that region’s defining or most prominent aroma - malted biscuits for the Lowland malts, for example. At the conclusion of the lecture (which covers blending very comprehensively, too), you simply place your Glencairn glass (yours to take away with you) over the coloured circle relating to your preferred fragrance and a malt from the region it simulated is poured into your glass.

Be careful not to drop it as you are ushered into the next room, or to be more precise the Aladdin’s Cave that is the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection. It is a jaw-dropping altar of whisky, and an extraordinary manifestation of the drink’s history, told in every faded and sometimes peeling label. There are 3,384 unopened bottles of Scotch, a world record, each with their own personal back-stories, and the collection is a more than suitable subject for contemplation as you sip your own dram.

In the McIntyre Whisky Gallery are housed some of the most valuable, unique or just plain odd examples in the Vidiz Collection. (Cans of whisky and cola stand out in my memory for all the wrong reasons.) Against the opposite wall, however, you can find almost equally rare and desirable malts for consumption at the bar. This is my second tasting room, and my favourite part of the Experience. On two occasions I have come to analyse whiskies I would be unable to source and sample by any other economical means. My love for The Dalmore was cemented when I tasted the 1263 King Alexander III and I was nearly overcome by the loveliness of the Glenfarclas 30-year-old. To begin with, the purchase of a Gold Tour ticket entitles you to a tasting tray of four malts to compare and contrast as well as 10% off the list price of any other malts you wish to try.

Down in the sublime shop the same ticket will, on the day of your visit and for twelve months thereafter, secure a £3 discount against any 70cl bottle of whisky. The Amber Restaurant on the floor below serves top-quality and reasonably-priced food from light lunches to substantial meals, many dishes with a dash of whisky in the recipe.

Whilst Whisky Heritage is responsible for the coordination of the Experience, almost all of the industry’s major players have a share in the enterprise. Part of the arrangement is that they pitch up in the shop from time to time and ply the public with free samples of their product. Had I known that such was the definition of “Tasting”, I would most likely not have bothered venturing up to Edinburgh for the Morrison Bowmore event on the 7th of August. To my disappointment, having wrestled my way up the Royal Mile through the invading armies of Festival-goers, I found only one man pouring out measures of Auchentoshan Classic and ThreeWood, as well as Bowmore 12 and 15-year-olds into plastic cups no larger than thimbles. No Glencairn glasses and, most regrettably, no Glen Garioch, either. This was a shame, but I’ll know better next time.

This wasn't how I had pictured it. I had hoped for all of the MB malts, with maybe the Glen Garioch 1990.

This wasn't how I had pictured it. I had hoped for all of the MB malts, with maybe the Glen Garioch 1990.

The Scotch Whisky Experience Tours:

Silver Tour – £11.50

Gold Tour – £19.95 (the Silver Tour plus one year’s membership of the Scotch Whisky Appreciation Society, numerous discounts at the Experience and future entry on a two-for-the-price-of-one basis.)

Collection Tour – £20 (from what I can work out, this is a more in-depth encounter with the Claive Vidiz Collection.)

info@scotch-whisky-experience.co.uk

www.scotch-whisky-experience.co.uk

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Bowmore

 

A view of the distillery from the pier down from the Harbour Inn.

A view of the distillery from the pier down from the Harbour Inn.

School Street, Bowmore, Islay, Argyll, PA43 7GS, 01496 810441. Morrison Bowmore (Suntory). www.bowmore.com

Easily in the top ten best-smellers list.

Easily in the top ten best-smellers list.

APPEARANCE AND LOCATION:      *****      Facing directly onto the fast, low waves of Lochindaal, Bowmore is a gentle giant of a distillery. The obligatory black capitals announce its identity on the sea-facing warehouse wall, staring pointedly across the loch to Bruichladdich distillery. Bowmore blends the old with the new. Their cottages and tasting room are straight out of 5-star hotel luxury and well-appointedness. Bowmore village jostles confidently and familiarly around it, and boasts one of the worst road surfaces I came across on my travels.

TOURS PROVIDED:

‘Standard Tour’: £4. See ‘My Tour’ below.

‘Craftsman’s Tour’: £40. This in-depth viewing of the Bowmore distillery lasts two and a half hours during which you enter the warehouse (you don’t just stand behind glass) and dram samples straight from the cask. Once back in the tasting room, you can taste a selection of Bowmore expressions up to the 25YO.

DISTILLERY-EXCLUSIVE BOTTLINGS:      In a cabinet are some seriously old (see expensive) Bowmores, including the Trilogy of Black (£2350), White (£2600) and Gold (£3130) Bowmores. If these are a little beyond your means, fear not because you can find some equally rare stuff. Admittedly the Feis Ile bottlings don’t come anywhere close to the above trio of 44YOs, but there are less than 100 bottles of each: an 8YO from 2008 for £80 and a 9YO from 2009, 57.1% and £90. It is also possible to purchase the Travel Retail line from the distillery: Surf, 12yo Enigma, 15yo Mariner, 17yo and Cask Strength.

My Tour – 13/05/2010

THE RUNNING COMMENTARY:      **

THE PROCESS AND EQUIPMENT:      ***

Notes:      While I tied the bike up in the increasingly persistent rain (what is it about inclement weather whenever I visit distilleries in the Morrison Bowmore group?) the smell of richly peated malt was being blown about the buildings, damn near hypnotising me. Had Lochindaal been more forthcoming with its own legendary seaweedy aromas, I might just have stood there getting wet. They kiln the barley with peat for 15 hours. It isn’t done on a specific ppm specification, only time. It produces 40% of its requirements on its own malting floors. We were allowed into the warehouse that sits just below sea level. The temperature in there varies only between 2 and 5 degrees Centigrade annually. The Queen visited in the 1980s, and was gifted with her own cask. This she decided to have bottled at around 22 years of age. Some bottles were sold for charity, some went to the Royal Household and one sits in the tasting room for visitors to inspect.

The warehouses: a rare sight on Islay.

The warehouses: a rare sight on Islay.

The floor maltings: a rare sight on the whisky trail.

The floor maltings: a rare sight on the whisky trail.

 

 

GENEROSITY:       (1 dram)

VALUE FOR MONEY:      **

SCORE:      7/10 *s

COMMENT:      As my first Islay tour, it was a superb one. Despte the weather, and the fact that I had to wait for the 11AM tour (the 10AM one being full), I was shown a very good time around one of the most venerable of all malts. The Iain Banks quote from Raw Spirit that if you can’t find a Bowmore to enjoy, then malts probably aren’t for you, is one I wholly endorse, and I loved seeing how it was made. The whole place is kitted out beautifully. The lighting, not something you will hear prasied in many distilleries, picked out all of the wooden vessels and the gleam of the copper wonderfully. Back in the tasting room after a sense of the atmosphere in an islay dunnage warehouse, I elected to go out on to the balcony with my measure of 12YO. I wanted to sip my malt with the air of Lochindaal swaddling me. As I stood and moistened, thinking about returning inside for some water to cut my sample, I realised that the Islay rain was doing that job for me. This was such a pure malt moment, especially after the guide had said that the distillery was struggling with recent shortages of water. The lade that would normally have been gushing was only a trickle. As an aside, I had to buy some of the glasses that they served my dram in. They are beautiful.

Here I got very arty-farty with my Islay malt and Islay rain. It's what it's all about, though.

Here I got very arty-farty with my Islay malt and Islay rain. It's what it's all about, though.

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