Distillery Bottlings

Posted 05 August 2020

Regardless of your stance on the desirability (and affordability) of old-style whisky, it is indisputably true that spirit profiles have changed, some quite radically, over the past half century. Whilst the core transformative processes of milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling and maturation remain conceptually the same – the actual application of these techniques has been adapted, tinkered with, and in many cases completely modernised many times over. Whisky doesn’t remain the same. And nor should any of us want it to – variety is the spice of life – and I quickly tire of being beaten by the vanilla stick. In fifty years’ time whisky will not be completely uniform to the liquid that you’re enjoying today. It changes out of necessity – and as such, there will always be an interest and a market for exploring the variances and different styles of historical whiskies - a glass into the past.

Posted 16 August 2017

Bowmore’s Number 1 Vaults are fairly legendary and the company likes to us remind of this. Regularly. The distillery’s new Vault Edition series is a four-part exploration of characteristics which define Bowmore as a whisky. The first release ‘Atlantic Sea Salt’ in no surprise to anyone is designed to focus on the ‘sea salt tang of Bowmore’. Whilst technically a limited release, bottles are still widely available in many outlets, so the number of bottles produced was probably well into the tens of thousands.

Posted 20 March 2020

When it comes to whisky, timing is everything and everywhere. The length of mash, fermentation and distillation all have a huge influence on the eventual character of the resultant spirit. Similarly the most commented on aspect of whisky production – maturation is, at its heart, purely a matter of time. Production is measured in hours and days. Maturation measured in months and years. For the most part, these variables are both understood and controllable – a tweak here, a change there having an fathomable knock-on effect on the rest of the whisky making ‘machine’. And yet, here were are in the midst of the biggest period of uncertainty the industry has possibly ever faced. And once again, it’s all about timing.

Posted 18 January 2019

The Devil’s Cask Series was launched in 2013 and ran until 2015 – three bottlings, all 10 years of age, and all influenced by 1st fill oloroso sherry. They were supposedly inspired by a legendary story about the Devil being chased around Bowmore town in scenes akin to a Benny Hill episode. But, as you’ve probably guessed already, all this amounts to is the Beam Suntory product and marketing teams running out of ideas for how to describe sherried whisky.

Posted 23 June 2020

The first release of the Bowmore Tempest Series consisted of 12,000 bottles (with 500 specially marked for Feis Ile – no difference in liquid – just a little neck tag noting the festival), drawn from a vatting of 1st fill ex-bourbon casks.

Posted 23 June 2020

The follow-up batch of Bowmore Tempest is still drawn from 1st fill ex-bourbon casks – though this time with no indication (that I can find) of the number of bottles within the batch. Likely a large number.

Posted 15 October 2018

In 1899 a litre of the cheapest Scottish new make malt spirit would have cost £5.02 per LPA (Litre of Pure Alcohol). In April 2018 that price was down to £2.18. Reductions in the cost of materials and transportation, changes in production regimes and major economies of scale have led to whisky being increasingly cheap to produce over the last 100 years. And yet, we are now at a point of time where price pressure is starting to push consumers away, whilst also creating market warping trends that seem to defy all economic (and personal) logic. Over the next week, the Dramble will be touching on the thorny subject of pricing, and considering how it affects all segments of the whisky market – from entry bottlings through to chase-Japanese whiskies and the first offerings from new distilleries.

Posted 16 August 2017

Bowmore Mariner was a travel retail release and combines both ex-bourbon casks and sherry butts. It’s 15 years of age, bottled at 43% and you get a whole litre of it to play with. The marketing text spends some time playing up the sea-based aspects of Bowmore – and well, with a name like Mariner, this is to be expected. So let’s take a look just how salty and maritime this Bowmore really is.

Posted 15 May 2019

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” When it comes to whisky branding, I’d argue that this Shakespeare quote still holds true. Naming a whisky as ‘Bowmore Darkest’ generates more powerful associations and connotations around colour, aroma and flavour than if the bottling was simply labelled ‘Bowmore oloroso sherry finish’ – any yet, under the hood the liquid and the drinking experience would still be exactly the same. Whether or not Bowmore Darkest is indeed the darkest Bowmore is irrelevant – the power of the brand name stems from the subtle (and not so subtle) implications its able to convey.

Posted 16 July 2019

Whilst whisky’s steeped history and long, slumbering maturation periods may give the impression of monolithic regularity – times do in fact change – and we’re not just talking about prices, but about the character of the make itself. Sometimes change is in slow incremental steps, sometimes it’s sweeping and dramatic – such as following a change in ownership or production methods. Distillate produced 10…20…or even 30 years ago almost always has a different profile to that which is produced today. Some for the better (consistency is arguably more consistent nowadays), and some for the worse. Distillery’s go through periods where they can seemingly do no wrong (read current Springbank), but equally years where things appear to have gone rather awry. Case in point - Bowmore.

Posted 26 March 2018

Manzanilla sherry is very similar to fino in that they are made the same way. Both are ‘flor’ sherries, where a thin layer of yeast (Saccharomyces – an abundant airborne yeast strain) forms on top of the sherry wine in the ‘head room’ of the barrel. The flor layer encases the liquid protecting it from oxidisation. Fino and manzanilla are both biologically aged under this layer of flor, whereas oxidative sherries (such as amontillado, oloroso and PX) may spend some, or even none of their time protected by flor. The manzanilla variety is made around the port of Sanlucar de Barrameda in Cadiz, Spain.

Posted 11 January 2018

I really should review more Bowmore on The Dramble. I’m firmly of the view that it’s a distillery who’s original bottlings are simply not as good as they used to be. Now, sure, 15 year old Darkest is a lovely drop, but two recent additions to the range have failed to changed my overall view on the distillery - The Vaults Edition left me rather cold, and the less said about the new NAS No.1, the better. However, in amongst some anaemic NAS, there are positive signs coming from Islay’s oldest distillery - A recent move back to age-statements for the distillery’s entire travel retail range should be applauded. Likewise, Bowmore’s recent ‘Vintner’s Trilogy’ all proudly stated their ages – and possess very healthy ABV’s too.

Posted 12 February 2020

There’s a disconnect somewhere. Whilst producers continue to make subtle (and not so subtle) pronouncements of the importance of, and their strict adherence to consistency, enthusiasts continue to note changes to quality and bottle profiles. Master Blenders near famed for their abilities to create an identical product from an ever-changing inventory of casks – some generations apart. And drinkers swearing by their lives that their bottle of X possesses quite different qualities to its previous incarnations. They can’t both be right can they?

Posted 04 March 2021

Bowmore’s 27 year old ‘Timeless’ release is composed of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks that were matured for 15 years, before being move over to oloroso butts for a further 12 years. It is not clear (I should have asked!) whether the ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks were vattted together before this long finishing period – I’m guessing they likely were.

Posted 04 March 2021

The older edition of the Timeless series is destined for travel retail - which hopefully will be an area of the industry which comes back to life over the course of 2021 and onwards. The drop in global travel has seen this lucrative part of the market virtually put on ice for the past 12 months. Where some airports, particularly those in certain cities in APAC, would have been ringing with the sound of tills and credit cards, sales are currently in the sort of slump which would have any distillery rethinking its market propositions.

Independent Bottlings


Posted 13 May 2022

50 already. That’ll teach me to not keep up with reviewing Sponge bottles. An interesting maturation here. Filled into a refill sherry butt in 2003, but then at some point disgorged (spending time outside of the cask and in an IBC on imagines) before being put back into a different refill sherry butt. The net result – 17 years of maturation. 679 bottled were produced at an ABV of 53%.

Elixir Distillers

Posted 08 June 2018

Elements of Islay was launched in 2008 as a showcase for single malts from the Hebridean island – 78 releases later, the periodic table inspired bottlings now include a blended malt (that can be customised with Whisky Exchange’s Personalise your Peat service) The series avoids the inclusion of age statements - each bottling is a batch produced vatting from a selection of different casks (between 5 and 20 it says on their brand page) and therefore a unique creation designed to highlight the character of the distillery of origin.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Posted 05 April 2018

Teenage Bowmore distilled back in 2004 and matured in a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel. Peated profile.

Posted 09 November 2017

Over to Islay for a Bowmore. This one was distilled on 25th September 1998 and spent 18 years slumbering in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel. One of 108 bottles. Lightly Peated flavour profile.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Posted 19 December 2018

Door Number 18 of the 2018 Boutique-y Advent calendar delivers Boutique-y’s fifth batch of Bowmore - both their oldest and their smallest – 27 years of maturation with a mere 285 bottles. Clocking in at 47.6% ABV, this will set you back a mighty £342.95 from Master of Malt – way more than my bottle budget (particularly for a 50cl), but such is the price of any and all well-aged Islay whisky nowadays. Thank heavens for Advent calendars and the opportunities they bring to enjoy such treats during the Christmas period.



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