The No. 1 Vaults warehouse is home to Bowmore’s rarest stocks of whisky, which are not just historical mementos of a time gone-by but are examples of some of Scotland’s oldest single malts, from one of her longest serving distilleries. This liquid library acts as a guide for future distilling, as Bowmore is one of only a handful of single malt distilleries to actively employ ancient techniques, such as floor-malting barley, a painstaking, time consuming and expensive craft, mostly lost now to industrialisation. Floor malting is one element that keeps alive old-style flavours of richness and texture that the team at Bowmore strive for in their single malt.
Bowmore is also famed for producing a style of lighter, soft, floral peat smoked whisky, the gentle ying to the bolder yang of other smoky whiskies, those that carry a more medicinal note, with sea spray and tar. The lightness of the floral style smoke within Bowmore’s whiskies is underpinned with a rich texture to the spirit, created by slow distillation and long ageing in the highest quality oak casks. These techniques are a postcard from the past of a style nearly forgotten, almost lost to efficiency and industry, but kept alive in this most remote of places, in a unique single malt.
As Islay’s most historic distillery and boasting the oldest stocks of single malt in existence from the island, Bowmore is uniquely placed to collaborate with other heritage craft brands. Their relationship with celebrated British car manufacturer Aston Martin, is one such example.
Their first outing together was the re-release of an iconic spirit: Black Bowmore 1964. First released in 1995 as part of the distillery’s ‘Black Bowmore’ range, these whiskies built themselves a phenomenal reputation; a rare mix of single malt distilled in the early 1960s, and matured in high quality first fill sherry casks, they went on to become some of the most collectable single malts ever released, often fetching £20,000 a go at auction. Quite the return for a whisky initially released in 1995, at under £100.
The partnership between Bowmore and Aston Martin allowed both teams to re-think the original packaging for this sought-after whisky, bottling some rare stock held back in the distillery’s archives. The teams worked a new design around the mechanics of an original DB5 piston, with each bottle taking up to a week to be completed and presented in a handmade presentation box. Only 25 were made available for sale, with a price tag of £50,000, all of which sold out.