Despite its remote location off the western coast of Scotland, the elemental isle of Islay – famed for its smoky, peaty whiskies – is not entirely quiet and serene. Stand on the shoreline outside the famous Bowmore distillery in the island’s main town and the local soundtrack of waves crashing onto the shore, and onto the walls of the distillery’s ‘No.1’ warehouse, can be deafening.
Now there is an additional roar in the streets of the island’s capital – that of supercar engines, as Bowmore announces a partnership with historic British car manufacturer Aston Martin.
The oft-sea battered No.1 warehouse is the oldest existing Scotch whisky maturation building in the country
Bowmore can trace its roots back to 1779, making it the oldest distillery on Islay, and the oft-sea battered No.1 warehouse, part of which is below sea level, is the oldest existing Scotch whisky maturation building in the whole of the country.
The last decade has seen Scotch whisky become an increasingly collectable product, with highly sought-after bottles commanding high prices on the secondary market. Just last week, brand-owner Diageo released a one-off selection of eight bottles for £20,000.
The rise in the price of whisky at auction houses has prompted an increased move by producers to release bottles designed for the newly hungry ultra-luxe consumer looking not just for fantastic liquid, but aspirational partnerships and experiences too.
It is a world that has seen ‘first growth’ status single malt producers such as The Macallan and The Dalmore work with world-famous photographers and chefs, while renowned blended Scotch brands like Chivas Regal partner with fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood.
Now Islay’s most historic distillery, which boasts the oldest stocks of single malt from the island, is building on its unparalleled reputation for long-aged whisky with a new partnership that sees the re-release of an already classic liquid.
The Black Bowmore 1964 first saw the light of day in 1995 as the third release in the Black Bowmore range. A line of five releases, Black Bowmore earned its reputation from being a rare combination of spirit produced in the early 1960s and matured in first-fill sherry casks. It has become legendary within whisky circles for its extreme quality and the ability to balance delicate peat smoke, strong sherry notes and soft barley flavours.
Auction prices for bottles in the Black Bowmore range often hit over £20,000 a pop. With an initial 1995 release price of under £100 for the 1964 31-year-old, that’s quite the return on investment.
However, the original bottling, housed in a wooden box with a wax-dipped cork, was never designed to carry the burden of a heavy price tag, and as such, finding one in tip-top condition is incredibly rare. This allowed the teams at Bowmore and Aston Martin to re-think the packaging, and this re-issue, using the same liquid as the original 1995 release, taken from a tiny stock that was held back, archived in glass by the forward-thinking Bowmore blending team, has finally found a home worthy of such a precious spirit.
And the liquid itself? This is quite the example of just how good well-aged Scotch can be. Rich mahogany notes on the nose combine with soft smoke, leading to a palate of black cherries, plumbs and blood orange, with a delicate, dry and smoky finish. 31 years in a first fill sherry cask has done this spirit wonders.
The bottle itself is handcrafted by Glasstorm, a bespoke contemporary glass studio based in North East Scotland. It is built around the design of an original Aston Martin DB5 piston, with each taking up to a week to be completed, and presented in a handmade presentation box. Only 25 will be made available for sale, with a price tag of an eye-watering £50,000.
This is quite the example of just how good well-aged Scotch can be
For Bowmore, 1964 is arguably one of the most significant points in the distillery’s 240-year history. Renovations at the Islay distillery moved the production from a reliance on coal fires to provide heating for the distillation process to steam; the Black Bowmore range represents the first spirit to run from the stills under this modernisation.
It was also in 1964 that Aston Martin’s most iconic car was thrust into the public eye in the Bond film Goldfinger. Launched a year earlier to considerable acclaim, the Aston Martin DB5 is now widely renowned as one of the most famous cars in the world.
The two brands are set to unveil a series of collaborative projects and products for patrons, tapping into experiences of the distillery and island itself, through to design-led initiatives drawing on the Aston Martin design studio’s expertise.