On our last trip to Scotland, a visit to a Scotch whisky distillery was a must. But, which distillery should we visit? Location was not a problem, we would travel throughout the whole of Scotland, thus, we decided to cross some inputs to make our decision.
Making a good use of the Wikipedia we found out that only a few distilleries in the whole of Scotland were producing their own malt: Balvenie, Kilchoman, Highland Park, Glen Ord, Glenfiddich, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Springbank, and Tamdhu. Fewer of them opened their doors to visits. Three of those were located in Islay island, which Luca had already suggested. We then decided to target the oldest one of them: Bowmore, founded in 1779.
The visit was superb, even if due to lack of rain in the previous weeks they had stopped malting (for which they need tons of water coming from the local river). We had the chance of visiting all corners of their facilities: malting barns, we entered into the kiln (like an oven where they burned the peat which smoke provides the characteristic peatty flavour of Islay whisky), the mash tun, the tun room where the wash back is made (so far the process is practically the same as for producing beer!), the stillhouse and the warehouse, where there were cask from up to 1957!
One curiosity which I enjoyed: whisky casks normally have been used beforehand either for producing bourbon in the USA (where in some states the law allows only to use them once for bourbon production – the cask selling for ~100$ each) or for producing sherry in the South of Spain (these were in higher demand as they may have been used more times and give more flavours and aroma to the whisky – the cask selling for 500-1,000$ each). You can also take a short visit to the distillery in their website.
We immediately became fans of Bowmore, buying some small bottles of 12, 15 and 18 years old single malts, some glasses, coasters, a flask, beer made out of malt and casks from Bowmore, “peatty” honey…
Note: I must admit that in our becoming fans of Bowmore, or in general Islay whisky, we may have been biased as Luca’s surname, “Veen”, means in Dutch “peat”.