Visit Bowmore - The Ideal Holiday for Whisky Lovers

By: Rachel Wilson

There is growing demand for Single Malt Scotch Whisky and every year thousands of people visit the Scottish distilleries. The Hebridean island of Islay off the West coast of Scotland is famous for producing some of the best single malt whisky in the world. The island, warmed by the Gulf Stream, is a magical place with beautiful scenery and the locals are friendly.
It is not difficult to find excellent accommodation on Islay and at Bowmore distillery they even have their own holiday cottages where you can stay and enjoy a complementary tour of the distillery and sample their excellent single malt whisky. There are 130 miles of beautiful coastline, around which seven of the distilleries are sited. The inhabitants number approximately 3500 and there is a strong community spirit. There are a number of festivals throughout the year including the festival of Malt and Music in May, which celebrates the rich heritage in Whisky production on Islay.
The first record of whisky making in Scotland goes back to 1494 and is thought to have been started by Irish monks. Many of the distilleries started out as farms where home stills were used to produce grain spirit. The process of distilling began after the harvest and continued until late April This cycle has continued down the centuries, and even today many of the distilleries are closed in August for the 'silent season'.
Bowmore Distillery in the town of Bowmore on the shores of Loch Indaal is the oldest on Islay and one of the oldest in Scotland; established in 1779 by David Simpson a local merchant and pioneer who built the distillery, produced the whisky and introduced Islay whisky to the world. Bowmore Distillery has changed hands four times in the last 200 years but traditional methods of production are still used and handed down by word of mouth.
A single malt whisky is the product of a single distillery and no two distilleries produce the same flavour and body. The distilleries to the south of Islay produce the most powerful medium bodied flavours with the use of the islands peat water for every stage of production, and those to the north produce much milder flavours since they use clear spring water. Bowmore is in the middle of the island and the flavour it produces comes between the two extremes having a warm smoky character with peaty, toffee flavours and some floral scents and traces of linseed oil.
Islay is largely composed of peat and this is covered in salt spray as the winter gales blow across the island and saturate the ground in the seaweedy essence. The water used to produce Bowmore whisky is taken from the uncontaminated water of the Laggan River which flows down from the mountains gathering the rich flavours and colouring of the peat as it does so.
Bowmore Distillery is one of only a few left to produce its own floor malted barley. The barley used is sourced from the east of Scotland and the island peat is used in the malting process. Malting the barley changes its chemical makeup and after soaking, the barley is drained and spread out over a large floor and turned regularly by the malt man using the traditional wooden malt shovel.
The high quality of the single malt whisky produced at Bowmore distillery owes much to the wealth of experience in its work force. There is a very low turnover in staff at Bowmore Distillery and the three stills men alone have 30 years experience each. The men of Bowmore Distillery see themselves as caretakers who will pass on their knowledge to the next generation by word of mouth. The distillery produces forty five million drams of single malt whisky every year and exports 1.7 million bottles a year to forty countries worldwide. Bowmore Distillery produces award winning whisky and the latest was the Double gold award at the San Francisco World Spirit competition in March 2009. A combination of dedication and experience in Bowmore team and the magic of Islay make this single malt whisky one of the best in the world.

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Daphne Hamilton is a travel writer and historian with a keen interest in the history of single malt whisky production in Scotland. Her local distillery at Bowmore is just one of many distilleries in Scotland that produce single malt whisky.

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