Bowmore is Islay’s oldest distillery and their whiskies are among the most sought-after and collectible in the world. The whiskies produced from Bowmore in the 1950s and 1960s are considered some of the best ever produced, renowned for their balance of exuberant tropical fruit characters and peat smoke (in comparison, the whiskies of the 1980s are intensely perfumed and floral, often compared to the flavours of parma violets, leaving this to be a decade of production which has divided fans).
We take a look at some of the distillery's most memorable expressions from the 1950s - 1960s and the must-have expressions for your Bowmore collection.
The Black Bowmore Series
The Black Bowmore is an icon of the whisky world and is greatly credited as the genesis of modern whisky collecting. The legend of Black Bowmore is celebrated by whisky connoisseurs around the world and it's declared a favourite among many of the world's most prolific whisky collectors. The late Mr. Richard Gooding, owner of The Perfect Collection, had no less than 25 unopened expressions in his collection and we know of many more that were opened and shared with friends.
The first Black Bowmore edition was released in 1993, appearing at a zenith in the popularity of sherry-casked whisky. It was limited to 2,000 bottles and sold for the heady sum of £120 a bottle. Future releases appeared in 1994 (2000 bottles), 1995 (1827 bottles), 2007 (827 bottles) and the ground-breaking series was eventually crowned in 2017 with the release of 'The Last Cask', 159 bottles of a 50 Year Old 1964 Black Bowmore.
This five-bottle collection is the pinnacle of whisky collecting and investing. Undoubtedly one of the most famous compendiums of whisky ever produced, it is a cornerstone of the world's greatest whisky collections.
At the time, everyone was excited and proud at what had been achieved through maturation in the No.1 Vaults. This was a single malt which reflected the high quality of our casks. This was also really the first time we created a truly collectible Bowmore, presented in a specially made presentation box. We did this as we knew it was special, but just how special completely surprised us as it was to go on to become one of the most iconic Scotch whiskies ever released.
David Turner, Distilllery Manager at Bowmore
Bowmore Black, White & Gold Trilogy
More than ten years after the original 'Black Bowmore' releases, Bowmore recreated the revered series, releasing a new Black Bowmore from the same parcel of legendary casks (this time at 42 years of age). This release was closely followed by ‘White Bowmore’, a 43 year old matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks, and ‘Gold Bowmore’, a 44 year old uniquely drawn from a marriage of ex-bourbon and sherry casks.
They were released at a time when collectors were starting to really look at single malt whisky to purchase as either an investment or to build their own collections. What's lovely about this trilogy is that they offered different flavour profiles of Bowmore, of the same distillate, all distilled in 1964, so it really creates a lovely understanding of what Bowmore's real character is like distilled in a variety of different casks.
Becky Paskin, Drinks Writer and Presenter
Bowmore Cask Trilogy
This fabled trilogy contains three single cask releases once again from the 1964 vintage. Of all the vintages over the years, there are none so declared as 1964 and no whiskies so admired as those that hail from it. Each expression is drawn from a different cask finishing, Oloroso, Fino and Bourbon. Only 300 bottles of each variation were produced and presented in wooden cabinets with their own lock and key.
Bowmore distillery has a long history and rare expressions can still be found that offer insight into that lineage. In 1925, the Bowmore distillery was sold to Glasgow-based, JB Sherriff & Co for the second time and renamed Sherriff's Bowmore distillery. Sherriff’s also owned the Lochead distillery in Campbeltown and Lochindaal distillery at Port Charlotte. They also had interests in Jamaican rum distilling as owners of the Long Pond distillery.
Bottled in the 1960s and 1970s, these extremely sought-after versions of Bowmore still bear the name of JB Sherriff & Co. After 25 years, Sherriff’s sold Bowmore to the Inverness-based William Grigor & Son (previous owners of the Glen Albyn distillery).
Bowmore from the 1950s
Bowmore 1955 40 Year Old
The Bowmore 1955 was released in 1995 at 40 years of age and strictly limited to 306 bottles worldwide. At a price of £4000, this bottle also gave the owner a two night stay at one of Bowmore's distillery cottages and a personal tour with the distillery manager, which included a special tasting at the end.
This single malt came from spirit distilled using the old coal-fired stills so truly a part of Bowmore’s rich history. It is a great example of the quality we achieved from casks laid down in the 1950s and 1960s. It is whiskies like this which have hugely contributed to our reputation. This is a fantastic dram; my personal all-time favourite Bowmore.
David Turner, Distillery Manager at Bowmore
Bowmore 1956 Sherry Cask
This whisky is part of a now-legendary spate of sherry cask Bowmore vintages from the 1950s and '60s. Considered some of the finest Bowmore ever committed to bottle, this expression was distilled in 1956 prior to the Morrison's ownership (1963 onwards) and bottled some time in the late 1980s. It has been awarded an impressive 96 points by Serge Valentin on WhiskyFun.com.
The Most Wanted Bowmore for Collectors
So many Bowmores, so little time! Here are a few more of our favourite Bowmores for collectors:
Bowmore Bicentenary: In 1979, Bowmore released two Bicentenary bottlings: a 1964 vintage and a multi-vintage version (from a selection of casks distilled in the 1950s and 1960s). Rare cask-strength versions were also created and released exclusively for the Italian market. These legendary releases are true collector's items.
Commemorative Bowmore Releases: Over the years Bowmore has released a number of especially rare limited editions. Highlights include the Bowmore 1968 Stanley P. Morrison 50th Anniversary bottling, personally selected by Brian Morrison and limited to 1820 bottles, and the Bowmore 21 Year Old Celebration Edition 1996, an incredibly rare bottling presented to commemorate the presentation of Morrison Bowmore Distillers limited Queen's award for export achievement on 13th December 1996.
Bowmore 1964 35 Year Old for Oddbins: An exceptionally rare bottling from a single cask that made up part of the same batch of Oloroso casks which produced the heralded Black Bowmore. This particular cask was bottled exclusively for Oddbins in 2000 and yielded just 99 bottles. A rarity that is a must-have piece for serious Bowmore collectors.
Bowmore 1968 Single Cask #222: This is part of an incredibly rare series of single cask Bowmore bottled in the late 1970s for customers of Fecchio & Frassa Import in Italy including Edoardo Giaccone's famous Whiskyteca. Distilled in 1968 and matured in single ex-Sherry cask #222, this is one of 280 bottles produced at cask-strength in December 1977.
Bowmore 1967 Largiemeanoch: A legendary bottle of whisky, distilled at Bowmore in 1967 and bottled from a vatting of three sherry casks. This is an incredibly rare example, bottled under the Largiemeanoch label, a brand devised for a series of private bottlings for The Howgate Wine Co in Edinburgh in the late 1970s.
Independently Bottled Bowmore
When looking at the collectible realms of Bowmore, it is impossible not to discuss the independent gems that make up some of the rarest wonders of the whisky world. Stars from Silvano Samaroli, Kingsbury, Moon Import and Cadenhead's all regularly feature in the 'winners' list on WhiskyFun (achieving scores above 90 points), with the 1966 Bowmore Bouquet from Samaroli declared as Serge's favourite expression from the distillery.
Regarded by many as one of, if not the best whisky ever bottled, the legendary status and reputation of the Bowmore 1966 Samaroli Bouquet has enshrined it as an undisputed icon in the world of whisky. The aptly named Bouquet was distilled in 1966, a golden era in production at Bowmore distillery, and represents almost the resplendent blossoming of the long-growing Italian love affair with single malt Scotch whisky. The Bowmore Bouquet achieved its highest sale price in 2019 after realising a £60,000 GBP hammer price.
Interested in finding some of these collectible Bowmore single malt whiskies for your own collection? View our auction calendar to find out when our next auction is live