Drink Review: Bowmore 12 Year Old

November 22, 2020
3 mins read

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Bowmore 12yo has a place in many hearts as Islay’s ‘medium-peated’ malt. A pronounced iodine character with plenty of pepper, the current 12yo bottling is a welcome return to the classic Bowmores of the 1960s and ’70s, with the emphasis on tropical fruit and smoke. A deserved runner-up in our Whisky of the Year 2014-15 blind tasting.

Bowmore Single Malt 12 Year Old Review:

Distillation of the whisky begins in large, aging warehouse style bourbon casks. These are unfiltered. After distillation, the spirit flows through long continuous lines of smaller oak Bourbon casks (masons) that have been selected for their closeness to the stave upon which they rest. Exceptional care is given to ensuring the grain of the wood is thoroughly mixed with those used to distil the whisky, ensuring that the wood will not influence the final results of the whisky. The port-like characteristics of the evergreen Oak, are a key part of the Bowmore flavour, and are brought to life in the solera releases that are made from the malted barley.

The finished Bowmore 12 Year Old is a distinctive medium full-flavoured whisky with a significant smoky peaty character. Simple in style, yet undiluted, this is a quality handcrafted whisky.


This is a very traditional malt from one of the more traditional distilleries of Islay. The distillery was only established in 1868 and since then has been producing independently malted whiskies. The distillery is now completely automated and is one of the largest on Islay at multiple tonnes. The casks used are also matured for an unusually long five years. The distillery is to be found slightly to the west of the island off the coast of the mainland. The location in the maritime weather means the clear air and wind from the Atlantic provide an influence on the whisky.

Cask type:

Wood Type


The colour of the whisky has a very strong influence on the end product. Factors such as the type of wood used, the solera system that is used and the style of distillation all have an effect. The whisky itself is made from a combination of grains. With the malt alone accounting for 10%, there is a substantial contribution from the grapes for the quality of the whisky. With wine, this is traditionally called additives or colour. Because of the influence of the copper works in the vicinity, the distillery uses a higher level of wood than a true port malt whisky.

Recommended glass for enjoying the Bowmore 12 year old single malt whisky.

A traditional half ounce glass will serve the whisky perfectly.

Notes on drinking the Bowmore 12 year old single malt whisky.

This is a full-flavoured malt with a strong peaty character. The nose has a wonderful range of tropical fruits with a strong note of wet stones and smoke. Quite rich on the palate and again the smoky character dominates the palate, but in a much more subtle way than in the nose. Typical of classic malts from this area.

Bowmore Single Malt Review: 

This is the classic Bowmore from the 1960s through to the 1970s. A full-flavoured malt, but not as complex as the ‘modern’ Bowmores. The traditional ‘Maze’ in an Ardbeg-style outer finish. This is a fine dram and with a good price in the recent Mackinac Whisky Days auction, a bargain.

This is a whisky that can be completely enjoyed by vodka connoisseurs and whisky novices alike. The lovely balanced spirit has a great deal of depth, with the combination of oak furniture and the notes of hibiscus, lemon and lemon grass on the nose, as well as a light smokiness paired with interplay between the corn, orange, lemon and honey in the palate.

Bowmore Single Malt Review: 

This is a classic ‘work of art’ malt. The wood influence, the length of the malt maturation, and the slow reduction of the distillate in the spirit that is then diluted to proof with the water level, all combine to create a traditional, yet unusual Bowmore.

This Bowmore is heavily peated, from a lightly peated smokiest of all distilleries – there’s something to be said for that… The whisky has a nice bold edge that runs the length of the palate, both initially and on the finish. Additional notes of blueberry and dried fruit are added to the heart. The finish is soft at first, but then turns sharp with notes of soot and seaweed. The colour in the glass is a light gold. The finish creeps up on you, and then cuts you with its subtle boldness.

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