Bowmore 50 Year Old 1961

Bowmore 50 Year Old 1961

Hello, my name’s Mike.

If you remember me at all, you’ll probably know me as the chap who wrote tasting notes and things, and used the word “soupcon” too much. If you work at Master of Malt, you may know me as “the bloke that did that thing at the Christmas Party” or “the terrible man who did that other thing in Sales Director Ben’s office which Ben still hasn’t found out about”.

Regardless of whether or not you know me, you better learn something, punk: I’m back from Africa, I’ve just tasted a £16,000 bottle of whisky and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

And it’s not just any old run-of-the-mill £16,000 bottle of whisky either. Oh no, this ground-breaking 50 year old will be the oldest publicly available single malt Islay has ever seen. (We’re not counting the 12 bottles of 54 year old Bowmore launched last year, because they were available only through auction or from the distillery itself.)

To taste this astonishing whisky, we were seated in the plush surrounds of the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows bar on the Park Lane Hilton’s 28th floor. Over the course of the evening, as if gripped by some terrible curse, I became gradually more and more obsessed with pilfering the Bowmore 50 year old. It was within easy reach. It was asking for it, all lit up like a Christmas tree.

I leered at the thing, sipping back a marvellous cocktail made with Bowmore Small Batch, sherry and picon, cask-matured and served with a vanilla-bourbon hydrosol. Kudos to the bar, this was one of the best Scotch cocktails I’d ever tried.

Whisky cocktail

With cocktail in hand, Bowmore Manager Eddie MacAffer took to the stage and told us the story of how Bowmore 50 year old came to be.

It all began on a cold day in December 1961. I know it was cold because I’ve read the marketing booklet they gave me, and it includes the word “cold” on more or less every page. I can tell you it was definitely very cold.

In those days, things were slightly different. The stills were coal-fired, and the stillman sat by the spirit safe with a pipe in his mouth (and no doubt an air of sagacity). He’d yell instructions at the stokers, who would add or remove more coal according to the temperature in the still. Now, said Eddie, elf and safety decrees “you can’t even use a flash camera in the stillhouse”, no doubt lest the gallons upon gallons of highly flammable liquid go up like the seventh circle of hell.

Eddie MacAffer

On that very, very cold day (the 22nd December 1961), 500 litres of new make were filled into a pair of American oak bourbon hogsheads. After 50 long years in Bowmore’s famous No. 1 Vaults, just 180 litres remain thanks to the angels’ share, and no doubt one or two thirsty excisemen, Eddie joked. This had the effect of creating a kind of Bowmore concentrate: the condensed essence of what the distillery is all about. My mouth was already watering at the prospect of a delicious mix of Bowmore’s trademark smoky, maritime character.

First on the agenda, however, was a little appetiser. Before us was set a plate of oysters on ice, and a glass of Bowmore 12. We were invited to nose the dram, taking in those lovely bourbon notes: the rich scent of toasty oak and crackling cinder toffee sweetness… Perhaps it’s been a while since I last sampled this one, but the palate seemed sweeter than I remembered – thick and creamy, with plenty of heather honey and smoke.

Oyster with Bowmore

A further flavour experiment followed when we were told to pour a drop of the whisky into the newly emptied oyster shell. Very interesting indeed; not as bad as one might expect.

I kept eyeing up the bottle of ancient 50 year old Bowmore just yards away. Could I grab it and make a break for it? No! The Scottish people will get you, Mike, I thought to myself. They have knives in their tartan socks!

I pulled my gaze away from the thing, and over to Brodie Nairn and Nichola Burns, two of Scotland’s foremost glass artists from the company Glasstorm. With ancient, archaic tools more or less unchanged since Roman times, they created the fabulous decanters which hold the Bowmore 50 year old. The glass was engraved with an illustration of Bowmore’s No. 1 Vaults, which looked marvellous when held up to the light. Brodie walked around the room, proudly holding the now-filled decanter. As he ventured within inches of me I managed, somehow, to restrain myself from lifting the thing from his hands and legging it, hoping his sporran would hinder any progress should he follow.

Glasstorm and Bowmore 50 year old

After Nichola and Brodie left the stage, they were followed by acclaimed “woodsmith” Peter Toaig, creator of the cabinet for the decanter. During his introduction, he looked visibly pained when some heathen used the word “carpenter”. Apparently he’s not one of those.

His creation was hewn from the finest Scottish Burr Elm – one of just 14 species of tree native to Scotland – increasingly hard to get hold of, blighted as the tree is by Dutch elm disease. The 150-year-old elm was used to create a smart, simple case with a little rustic detailing on the front. To my untrained eyes it looked like it might have arrived flat-packed, and named Henriksblok or Bjurstan. It wasn’t though.

As a final and very handsome detail, the decanter is topped with a solid silver neck collar and stopper, fashioned by sixth generation silversmith, Thomas Fattorini.

Our hosts turned away for a brief moment whilst we cleansed our palates with iced cucumber water. The Bowmore 50 was briefly unwatched. Now’s my chance, I thought to myself, stretching my calves for a speedy exit. But dammit, too late! A Scottish person went over to the bottle, blocking my path.

All that remained was to taste the rare and valuable whisky, a small sample worth hundreds of pounds. Without further ado (there’s been plenty of ado already, I realise):

Bowmore 50 year old 1961

Tasting Note for Bowmore 50 Year Old 1961

Nose: Dry and intensely sweet, this can’t be fifty years old! Slivers of desiccated pineapple and sweet yoghurt at the fore, with beautifully vanilla-rich bourbon notes. The toasty white oak meets fizzy cola bottle sweet… Old Bowmore so frequently seems to be a marvellous cocktail of old-fashioned sweets, conjuring up images of Public School tuck shops, and fagging (which, if you’re reading from across the Pond, isn’t what you’d think). The nose appears so young, so perfumed. After time in the glass it becomes distinctly maritime, like a carpenter’s (or woodsmith’s?) workshop by the sea. Marzipan develops, with something slightly mushroom-like. Delicious!

Palate: Incredible sweetness to the fore, perfumed and floral. The pineapple remains, but this time there’s berry compote, with lashings of blackcurrant cordial. Then Fishermen’s Friend, sea salt, violet petals and white pepper. As the whisky develops on the palate, there is just a hint of dried porcini mushroom, a touch of cardamom and sugared peel. The palate is youthful and spritely, supremely balanced with soft, refined notes of Bowmore’s trademark muscular smoke.

Finish: The finish is long, very long in fact, thanks to tannic, puckering oak and uniquely fruity acidity. It concludes with a soupcon of potpourri and cherry eau-de-vie.

Overall: The nose on this one is absolutely sublime, one of the richest, most deftly balanced whisky noses I’ve ever tried in fact. The youth and character is just astounding; one would simply never guess it had spent more than half a century in oak. And, thanks to my debilitating fear of Scottish people, the bottle remains safely in Bowmore’s hands.


Finally, as a special treat for you, gentle readers, we’ll be giving away a pair of smart Bowmore whisky nosing glasses made by legendary blowers (haha), Glasstorm…

Bowmore glass

All you have to do to win is make the standard “chortle chortle let’s mix it with Coke” joke in the comments section below. You know, the joke some prat makes every time we post literally anything about an expensive product. Any genuinely funny jokes will be placed in a hat, and we’ll pick a lucky winner at random and notify you in an upcoming blog post.

We’ll have the Bowmore 50 up on our site soon. We’ll be the proud stockists of one of just five bottles available to the UK market, so keep watching our Twitter feed and New Arrivals page for more details!

Day one back on the job: jolly good. Nice to drink 50 year old whisky, if anything.


Categories : Whisky

26 comments on “Bowmore 50 Year Old 1961”

  1. steve says:

    A dude walks into a bar and says to the bartender : "I want a 12 years old scotch, and don’t try to fool me because I can tell the difference."
    The bartender is sceptical and decides to try to trick the man with a 5 year old scotch.
    The man takes a sip, scowls and says : "Hey – Bartender, this crap is 5 years old scotch. – I told you that I wanted a 12 years old."
    The bartender won’t give and tries once more this time with a 8 year scotch.
    The man takes a sip, grimaces and says : "Bartender, I do not want 8 years old scotch like this filth. Gi’me a 12-years old scotch or ill leave !"
    Impressed, the bartender gives him the 12-year scotch on the house, the man takes a sip and sighs,
    " Ah, now that’s the real thing. "
    A disgusting, ugly, grimy, stinking drunk has been watching all this with great interest. He stumbles over and sets a glass down in front of the man and says. :
    "Hey, I think that’s really far out what you can do. Try this one."…
    The man takes a sip and immediately spits out the liquid and cries, "Yechhh! This stuff tastes like piss!"
    The drunk’s eyes light up and he says, "Yeah sure, now how old am I ?"

  2. Enrico says:

    Turned 50 just reading this wall of text.

  3. Sorry not found of Coke in my whisky, but I think adding some Redbull to this Bowmore will do just fine !

  4. Andy Carr says:

    Even with a 50 year old Bowmore, in this age of austerity a £16k bottle of whisky is not to be sniffed at

    Get it? Sniffed at, nosing…………………

  5. Aaron Walt says:

    I wonder if the ABV in this old dram would be enough to set that nice elm case on fire on one of those Very, Very Cold days. Honestly, could only imagine what this would be / feel like. I have just started out on my scotch trek, and looking forward to trying the Bowmore 12 soon.

  6. Jon Webb says:

    Cant be as good as Aldi’s own, and Ill get a Skoda from the change.

  7. Gavin Ryan Thomson says:

    "Bowmore 50 year old! Wow… (nosing, swirling, nosing)… Now, throw it on the carpet. So, time to taste it! … What?!?!"

  8. Juan Ramirez says:

    Anyone up for a peaty eggnog? Tis the season after all…

  9. Mark H says:

    Imagine how clean the world would be if blind people walked with brooms instead of canes…

    (Yip, I went there) 😉

  10. Lins Colwell says:

    What’s the difference between a G-Spot and a bottle of Jack Daniels?
    A guy will actually SEARCH for a bottle of Jack Daniels.

  11. Tom Thomson says:

    man walks into a Bar and says "Gimme a triple whiskey" He quickly downs it and says "Another!" Again he sinks it and demands "Another" He keeps on drinking until after his eight triple whiskey the bar man says "Mister, you drink like you’ve a problem. Do you want to talk about it?" The man says "Ten years I’ve been with my wife, I left work early today to surprise her, only to come home and find her in bed with my best friend, godddammmmit!!" "What did you say to them?", asked the bar man. Well says the guy I told her to get out of my life for ever and I told him Bad Dog !! Bad Dog!!.

  12. David Elton says:

    I used to make my own spirits, didn’t work out, it’s a whisky business…

  13. Adrian says:

    I take it the Bowmore 50 comes with a heat sensitive label that changes colour when it’s frozen to the perfect temperature for shots.

  14. Patrick Hogan says:

    Little Johnny asks his dad for a telly in his room. He reluctantly agrees.
    Next day Johnny comes downstairs and asks
    ‘Dad what is love juice?’
    Dad looks horrified and tells Johnny all about sex.
    Johnny sits there with mouth open in amazement.
    Dad says ‘so what were you watching?’
    Johnny replies ‘Tennis’.

  15. Martin says:

    I’m thinking I’ll buy this, and a Bowmore 25, mix them, and have myself a Bowmore 75. It works that way, right?

  16. adam warburton says:

    Would love to put this in the freezer and serve with ice….

  17. Jarrod Homer says:

    < witty prize-winning comment >

  18. Mark Spink says:

    The owner of "master of malt" went down to check out how everything was going. And noticed some guy just chilling in the tasting room. “Just how much are you getting paid a week?” “five hundred pound!!” Replied the young man. Taking out his wallet he give him five hundred pound and said, “here is a week’s pay and don’t come back!” Turning to mike the top whisky sampler at master of malt, , “how long has that lazy bum been working here anyways?” “He doesn’t work here,” said mike.“He just walked in to ask directions!………

  19. Bas says:

    Why drink old whisky can’t you afford new one?

  20. Ricky Keenan says:

    dis it taste the same with iron-bru!

  21. Richard Wheatley says:

    I’ve been on the whisky diet – I’ve already lost three days.

    (Thank you Tommy Cooper!)

  22. Patrick Hogan says:

    England winning the Ashes

  23. David Churcher says:

    On reaching his plane seat a man is surprised to see a parrot strapped in next to him.
    He asks the stewardess for a coffee whereupon the parrot squawks, "And get me a whisky, you cow!"

    The stewardess, flustered, brings back a whisky for the parrot and forgets the coffee.
    When this omission is pointed out to her, the parrot drains its glass and bawls "And get me another whisky you bitch!"

    Quite upset, the girl comes back shaking with another whisky but still no coffee.
    Unaccustomed to such slackness the man tries the parrot’s approach. "I’ve asked you twice for a coffee! Go and get it now or I’ll kick your ass!"

    The next moment both he and the parrot have been wrenched up and thrown out of the emergency exit by two burly stewards.

    Plunging downwards the parrot turns to him and says, "For someone who can’t fly, you’re a ballsy bastard!"

  24. Bret says:

    A few dabs behind the ears before a night out in Paris works wonders.

  25. Hector McNee says:

    A white horse walks into a pub and asks for whisky and coke. The barman says "we have a whisky named after you".
    Horse replies "What George?"

  26. Mike Down says:

    Drawing on my six year old’s humour, I submit the following…

    Knock, knock
    Who’s there?
    I need up.
    I need up who.

    Try it, it’s hilarious (for six year old’s)

    Q. Why did the baker have smelly hands?
    A. He kneaded a poo.

    I can only do toilet humour. Or sarcasm. Anyway…

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