At Bowmore, Pt. 2 (Summer 2017)

On Wednesday I posted a look at the grounds and visitor centre of the venerable Bowmore distillery. Here now is a look at the interiors of many of the distillery’s most important buildings. As I’d mentioned, my initial hope had been to do the comprehensive Craftsman’s Tour but it was booked up before I got around to emailing the distillery. The basic tour was a consolation prize. This turned out to be a good thing though. For one thing, it meant I did the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin (which was the highlight of the whisky parts of our Scotland trip); for another, it meant we had time on this day to visit Kilchoman and go on to Machir Bay—and our time at Machir Bay turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. And as it happened, the basic tour at Bowmore is pretty damned good in its own right. 

It’s also a good value. You pay £7 for a tour that takes in every aspect of the whisky making process, you get a Bowmore nosing glass, and you get two small pours of your choice from Bowmore’s core range in the Visitor Centre at the end. The tour leaves from the Visitor Centre, and we were about 12 of us, from at least three continents (four if you count me as being from Asia even though I’m resident in North America). The group’s experience ranged from totally geeky to just sort of interested in whisky and our guide handled us all with aplomb and good humour.

The tour starts in their malt barn and follows the whisky making process—as is the case, probably, at every distillery that has a tour. What’s different at Bowmore is that they are one of the few remaining distilleries that malt at least a portion of their barley on site. You may remember that Laphroaig is one of the others; unlike Laphroaig, however, Bowmore allows you to not only walk around on the barley but actually take a turn raking it. Yes, I raked some barley—there’s photographic evidence of this, just barely: I handed my camera to one of my fellow tourists and I have no idea what the fuck he did…but I digress.

Anyway: you see the barley, you see piles of peat, you see the kiln where the barley is dried with peat smoke, you see the conveyor that takes it to the Porteus mill that grinds it, you see the grist bin that holds the ground barley, you see the mash tun into which it drops, the copper tanks that hold the water that goes into the mash tun, you see the wort forming, you go into a large room that holds the 6 pine washbacks in which the wort ferments, you go into the still house and take too many pictures of the two spirit stills and the two wash stills, you go into the No. 1 Vaults and gape at the casks behind bars, and then at the end you go to the visitor centre and drink your two whiskies. All of this happens in just one hour but you don’t feel rushed at any point. You’re encouraged to ask questions and you don’t feel like you’re being fed answers that came out of a marketing algorithm. All of this is good. And for just £7.

Here are far too many pictures. If you look at them all I will get many page views. However, as I don’t run ads or in any other way seek to make money off my blog these page views mean nothing. Therefore you should look at the pictures without feeling like you’ve been caught up in some sordid moneymaking exercise. After you’ve looked at them, scroll down to find out what’s coming next (you know you want to know).

Did you look at all the pictures? Good job! You have the weekend to recover. Next week’s distillery action will involve Ardbeg—we went twice and not for anything whisky-related—and either Bruichladdich or Kilchoman. I’ll also report on more seafood on Skye and on Malaysian food in London. And next week’s whisky review will be even more uselessly untimely than the last two have been. So much to look forward to!

5 thoughts on “At Bowmore, Pt. 2 (Summer 2017)

  1. A great write-up of a very awesome experience! I was also quite surprised (positively, of course!) by how hands-on even the basic tour at Bowmore was. Raking barley, throwing peat into the kiln (I was lucky to visit them on smoking day), seeing all the operations from up close… you definitely got more than just a vague idea of how their whisky is made!


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