Is Bowmore Good? A Detailed Look At 9 of Their Whiskies

I’d heard a lot of conflicting opinions about Bowmore whiskies. On the negative side some say they’re nothing special and they’re not worth the price, but on the positive side others argue that they’re solid whiskies. To resolve this, I had to determine for myself whether Bowmore whiskies are good and here’s what I found.

Bowmore whiskies are good for those who prefer only light amounts of peat and smoke, as those who like more can find them somewhat boring. I would recommend Bowmore 12 Year Old as an easy introduction to peated whiskies, Bowmore Vault Edition 2nd Release for its additional peat and Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy 26 Year Old for its complexity and wine influence.

There are 25 current Bowmore whiskies and even more if you count those that are now discontinued. I examined nine of the current whiskies leaving out those that are rare, travel exclusives or so expensive that I could have purchased a small country instead.

3 bottles of Bowmore - the 12, the Vault Edition 2nd Release & the Vintner's Trilogy 26

How I Determined Whether Bowmore Whiskies Are Good

I didn’t want to present just my own personal opinion about these whiskies but rather a more general consensus, so I gathered a team of experts (translation: anyone who would help me with this project and who knows a thing or two about whisky) and amalgamated all our tasting notes. I left out those aromas and flavors that were found by only one person and focused on those experienced by more than one member of the group. Descriptors that appear earlier in the coming lists were detected by more people.

Everyone scored each whisky out of 100 and I calculated the average.

The notes after each table are my summary of the general consensus and while there was some disagreement, the combined results present a pretty clear picture of these whiskies.

Here’s what we found:

Bowmore 12 Year Old

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $32.09 approx. for 350ml & $61.29 approx. for 750ml

The youngest of the Bowmore Core Range, this whisky is aged for at least 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels in an attempt to create a flavor profile that has, in their words, a ‘complex balance of not just smoke, but also maritime minerality and fresh stone fruit notes which is so characteristic of our timeless house style’.

NoseLight peat and smoke, floral, vanilla, lemon, spice, honey, oak, apple, wood, citrus
TasteLight peat and smoke, vanilla, honey, citrus, wood, cereal grains, spice, heather, malt, oak, lemon
FinishMedium: Light Peat and smoke, bitter, dry, honey, pepper, tannins, oak
Average Score – 72

Bowmore 12 is a lightly peated, pretty smooth and nicely balanced whisky with mild, sweet flavors and no real flaws (although it would be better at a higher ABV). It’s okay for what it is, but in comparison to other more complex and heavily peated Islay whiskies it can be a bit boring and therefore not worth it especially when you consider the price.

On the other hand, if you only like light amounts of peat and smoke, then this whisky would make a great daily drinker.

It would also be a good whisky for someone who wants to explore the world of peated Islays but prefers to start with a gentle introduction and slowly work their way up from there, rather than immediately tackling one of the big peat monsters.

You can buy a bottle of Bowmore 12 hereOpens in a new tab..

3 bottles of Bowmore - the 15, the 18 & the 25

Bowmore 15 Year Old

  • 43%ABV
  • Price: $64.59 approx. for 700ml

Bowmore 15 year old is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for 12 years and then in ex-Oloroso sherry casks for 3, to add sherry sweetness to peated malt.

ColorDark amber
NoseLight peat and smoke, raisins, sherry, fruit, chocolate, vanilla, floral, cinnamon, orange rind, plumbs, fudge
TasteLight peat and smoke, sherry, raisins, sweet, toffee, medicinal, cinnamon, wood, rubber, oak, fruit
FinishMedium to long: Light smoke, sherry, toffee, raisins, dry, light bitterness
Average Score – 77

This is another nice, tasty and lightly peated whisky. It’s medium bodied with a velvety, creamy mouthfeel and sherry sweetness. In comparison to the 12 it’s a step up in complexity, but not by much and it would also be better at a higher ABV, even though at 43% it’s already stronger than the 12.

In terms of the combination of peat and sherry, some felt that they were integrated well but others thought that they were working against each other or that the sherry was too dominant. Once again, other sherried and peated whiskies may offer more so the Bowmore 15 may be best as an introduction to whiskies with this combination.

You can buy a bottle of Bowmore 15 hereOpens in a new tab..

Bowmore 18 Year Old

  • 43%ABV
  • Price: $149.99 approx. for 750ml

This whisky is matured in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks for at least 18 years.

ColorAuburn, copper
NoseLight peat and smoke, fruit, vanilla, oak, caramel, leather, toffee, citrus, sweet, fresh
TasteLight peat and smoke, fruit, floral, salt, toffee, plums, vanilla
FinishMedium: Light smoke, chocolate, sea salt, dry, wood, oak, sweet, pepper, malt
Average Score – 81

Bowmore 18 is another tasty, smooth, fairly complex and nicely balanced whisky, although it has even less peat than the 12 and the 15, the mouthfeel is a bit thin and watery, and again, it would have benefitted from having a higher ABV or being bottled at cask strength. The real problem with this whisky, however, is that we felt there should be more to it for its age and price, and it’s somewhat flat in comparison to other peated whiskies of a similar age.

Nevertheless, it’s still a solid, enjoyable whisky and if price isn’t a consideration, you can buy a bottle hereOpens in a new tab..

Bowmore 25 Year Old

  • 43%ABV
  • Price: $499.99 approx. for 750ml

Bowmore 25 Year Old is matured in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks for at least 25 years.

ColorAmber, copper
NoseLight peat and smoke, fruit, oak, iodine, chocolate, sweet, wax, vanilla, spice, tobacco, caramel, honey, sherry, salt
TasteLight peat and smoke, sweet, fruit, chocolate, oak, earthy, lavender, cocoa, vanilla, nuts
FinishLong: Light peat and smoke, oak, chocolate, pepper, dry, malt, fruit
Average Score – 84

Despite having the highest average score so far, there was a split opinion about this whisky.

Some thought that while this whisky had the typical Bowmore profile of fruity and peaty flavors they are usually stronger and more complex. They thought the mouthfeel was somewhat thin and watery and for a 25-year-old whisky it fell a little flat.

On the other hand, others thought that it was a top quality, complex, delicious whisky that had a creamy mouthfeel and was extremely well balanced. Although they agreed with the others that it’s probably overpriced.

Now you may not be interested in a whisky that splits opinion but before you completely dismiss it, I want to add the following:

  • The split opinion was 70 – 30 in favor of those who really liked this whisky.
  • Most of those who thought the whisky fell somewhat short scored it in the high 70s.
  • The average score it got was 84 out of 100 which means this whisky must have something going for it.

And while I’m sure that I’ve now convinced you not to let our split opinion stop you from buying a bottle of the Bowmore 25, which you can do hereOpens in a new tab., I’m not sure that I‘ve convinced you not to let the price stop you instead.

3 bottles of Bowmore - the Vault Edition Atlantic Sea Salt, the Vintner's Trilogy 18 & the Vintner's Trilogy 27

Bowmore Vault Edition Atlantic Sea Salt

  • 51.5%ABV
  • Price: $149.99 approx. for 750ml

This is the first of an as yet incomplete 4-part series of whiskies, each having one of the four classical characteristics of the Bowmore distillery. This one focuses on Atlantic sea salt, as it’s spray influences Bowmore whiskies by washing against their No.1 Vaults, after which this series is named.

This whisky is matured in ex-bourbon barrels and has no age statement.

NoseLight peat & smoke, vanilla, honey, apples, salt, lemon, sweetness, coconut, buttered popcorn, citrus, nuts, chocolate, pear, meat
TasteLight peat & smoke, salt, vanilla, apple, ginger, spice, honey, caramel, sweetness, chocolate, vegetal, pepper, pear, earthiness, iodine
FinishMedium long: Light peat and smoke, salt, caramel, earth, chocolate, astringent, pepper
Average Score – 84

This is a nice whisky. It’s your classic Bowmore, with its not too heavy peat that’s definitely helped by the higher ABV. It has a pretty full body with a medium oily mouthfeel and although some felt it was a little unbalanced, it’s tasty and enjoyable.

It also succeeds in delivering the promised focus on salinity (though more so on the palate as it’s quite restrained on the nose), however, there may be too much focus as some found the whisky somewhat monotone and lacking in complexity. Which again makes this whisky quite expensive for what it is.

You can buy a bottle of Bowmore Vault Edition Atlantic Sea Salt hereOpens in a new tab..

Bowmore Vault Edition 2nd Release

  • 50.1%ABV
  • Price: $82.69 approx. for 700ml

The second of the Vault Edition series focuses on Bowmore’s peaty characteristics. Matured in ex-bourbon barrels and then Oloroso sherry casks it also has no age statement.

NosePeat, smoke, wood, sweet, roasted meat, herbs, sherry, honey, pine needles, raisins, spices, leather, vanilla, fruit, maritime, medicinal, mint, caramel, fruit, cherries, earth
TastePeat, smoke, fruit, sweet, dry, leather, sherry, spice, bitter herbs, dried dates, pepper, wood, hazelnuts, herbs, oak
FinishMedium: Smoke, dry, spices, sherry, salt, ash, herbs, chocolate, medicinal, fruit, oak
Average Score – 87

This is an excellent and delicious whisky that definitely has more peat and smoke than your average Bowmore, but it’s well integrated and not too invasive. Once again, some thought that the focus on peat and smoke makes this whisky somewhat one dimensional but nonetheless it’s still one of the better Bowmores.

The price for this whisky is much more reasonable than for the Atlantic Sea Salt and you can buy a bottle hereOpens in a new tab..

Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy: 18 Year Old

  • 50.2%ABV
  • Price: $259.95 approx. for 700ml

The three whiskies that comprise the Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy, focus on the influence of wine finishes – hence the name. The 18 year old was matured for 13 years in ex-bourbon barrels and then finished in ex-manzanilla sherry barrels for an additional 5 years.

ColorGold, chestnut
NoseOrange, vanilla, fruit, light smoke, meat, honey, berries, nutmeg, lemon, caramel, apricots, salt
TasteSmoke, orange, salt, nuts, spices, sweetness, pepper, mango, ginger, berries, raisin, fruit, apricots, plum, caramel
FinishLong: Dry, light smoke, sweet, salt
Average Score – 87

This is a great whisky. It’s creamy and oily with a medium mouthfeel. It’s sweet, smoky, fairly complex and very well balanced. In terms of the influence of the wine finish, the presence of the wine barrel can be detected through the saltiness and fruit, but they don’t displace the smoky, coastal Bowmore profile.

Very tasty and slightly better than the regular 18 year old but also a little expensive for what it is.

You can buy a bottle of the Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy 18 Year Old hereOpens in a new tab..

Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy: 26 Year Old

  • 48.7%ABV
  • Price: $384.16 approx. for 700ml

The second of the Vintner’s Trilogy was matured for 13 years in ex-bourbon barrels and then in ex-wine barriques for another 13 years.

ColorTawny, gold
NoseLight peat and smoke, fruit, berries, wine, vanilla, herbs, mineral, oak, sweet, ash, chocolate, salt, plums, tobacco, raisins, earthy, maritime
TasteLight peat and smoke, berries, oak, fruit, grapes, chocolate, vanilla, wood, salt, pepper, earth, herbs, strawberries, plums
FinishMedium to long: Light smoke, fruit, oak, wood, sweet, dry, spice, ash, chocolate, pepper
Average Score – 90

The Vintner’s Trilogy 26 Year Old is a rich and elegant Bowmore. It’s soft and oily in the mouth, creamy and sweet, and full of complex and nuanced elements that are well balanced.

The wine has a bigger influence on this whisky which is not surprising given the additional years in the barriques and while some thought that the Bowmore character and the wine flavors integrated perfectly, others felt the wine influence dominated somewhat though that might just be due to a preference for whisky flavors over wine.

It’s significantly better than the 18 from the trilogy and the regular 25, so it’s certainly worth it – if you can afford it.

You can buy a bottle hereOpens in a new tab..

Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy: 27 Year Old

  • 48.3%ABV
  • Price: $638.88 approx. for 750ml

The last of the Vintner’s trilogy is a 27 year old whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels for 13 years and then in ex-port pipes for 14 years.

NoseLight peat and smoke, spices, leather, fruit, chocolate, berry, tobacco, cherry, sweet, menthol, syrup
TasteLight smoke, spices, tobacco, fruit, sweet, earthy, floral, leather, salt, lavender
FinishMedium to Long: Light smoke, leather, spices, fruit, tobacco, sweet, oak, bitterness, pepper, lavender
Average Score – 90

Just like the 26, the Vintner’s Trilogy 27 year old is an extremely high quality, delicious and elegant whisky. It has an oily and soft mouthfeel, it’s creamy and sweet and all the flavors work very well together.

Again, there was some disagreement as to whether the port influence was just right and the whisky didn’t drown in it or whether the port was not as strong as expected given the maturation, but either way it’s a very nice whisky indeed.

It’s definitely an expensive whisky but if you like port flavors it may be worth it. You can buy a bottle hereOpens in a new tab..

Josh Mitchell

I'm Josh Mitchell. I love whiskey and am working on increasing my whiskey tasting abilities and my collection.

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