[Trips] Islay Trip - Part 3 - Bowmore distillery and Port Ellen

After a busy first afternoon on Islay, we were ready for Bowmore on Saturday morning. As we had our own driver for the first couple of visit and he therefore had to miss any tasting (Bruichladdich offered to give him a dram if he had his own container but as he didn’t have one they swapped his £5 off-a-bottle visit ticket for a miniature of their Botanist gin, Kilchoman however did not give him anything…) we decided to make the journey from Port Ellen to Bowmore by bus. I had booked the tour for 9:30 so we had to catch the 8:19 bus which arrived in Bowmore at 8:43. The return ticket cost £5. You can’t really afford to miss your bus on Islay as they are not that frequent (only 5 leaving from Port Ellen for the day).

Bowmore the “main town” on Islay with the tourist information office, a bank (and probably the only ATM), a Coop and a few shops including the best Spar ever if you like rare whisky bottles! There is a small harbour too and the famous round church (the fact it is round meant there is not corner for the devil to hide!). You can’t miss the distillery on the left when you get off the bus down the main street.

The round church where the devil cannot hide!
Best Spar I've ever been to!
We had a look around the town and headed to the distillery for 9:30. As I had been told over the phone when I booked the visit, the distillery was closed for visitors as maintenance work was taken place. Instead we had a difference experience. We started in the visitors’ center, looking at the history of the distillery, surrounded by rare bottles including a 1957 Bowmore of which only 10 bottles were ever produced and 8 sold for £100,000! There is also a really nice lounge with tweet and dark wood chairs and tables and the bar. 

The shop
Bowmore 1957, 1 of 10
The lounge/bar area
We then watch a video about the production of the spirit with a glass of Gold Reef. After the video, we headed down to the famous n°1 Vaults warehouse by the sea. There, we were greeted by a 2002 sherry cask, which of course, after a bit more information about the casks and the warehouse, we got to try, pulled straight out of the barrel! Pretty good too! The visit ended back at the bar where the whole range was on offer for us to try, from the Small Batch Release, to the 18 year-old, to the Travel Retail exclusive to the Devil’s cask III. I finally managed to try the 18 which was very smooth as well as the Black Rock. Like with Kilchoman the day before, we got to keep our little nosing glass.

After the visit, we stopped at the Harbour Inn next to the harbour (and owned by the distillery) for a bite to eat (I had a great chicken and pasta dish for about £11), had another look around the town and waited for the 13:35 bus, bumping into distillery workers.

Back at the B&B we geared up for the rain and went for a 2h walk, past Port Ellen Maltings and following the road around the coast to reach the Carraig Fhada Lighthouse (in the pouring rain!) The Islay hotel was our base again for the night with live music/bagpipe from 9:30.

Port Ellen Maltings
Carraig Fhada Lighthouse

The big day was nearly there, with the 3 peat power-houses awaiting…


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