Memories of a 1985 visit to Bowmore

let’s begin

I thought I would share a short story about my introduction to whisky.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s in Glasgow, my Father would drink Bells, Whyte & Mackay and the like with a little water. My Grandfather, an Aberdonian, had been a fan of Islay Mist my Father told me.

I did try a sip of whisky in my early 20’s but just could not understand its popularity.

In the early 80’s, my Father In Law was an Islay man, and he told me that the finest whisky did in fact originate there, and that I really had to try Malt Whisky. He was a fan of Bells Islander, but I have not seen this for a few years, it used to be popular at Islay and also Skye gatherings that I attended in Glasgow in the 80’s.

We arranged a trip to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary,  staying near Bowmore. This was in 1985.

So, a visit to the distillery in Bowmore was arranged. I now live in Lossiemouth, and have been on many a distillery visit since, but nowadays it is all very professional, and a well dressed young lad or lass will escort you around.

In Bowmore, in 1985, a distillery worker in a set of dungarees and wellies was order of the day. Whilst showing us around, he opened a valve somewhere and allowed this white spirit to drain into a 3 foot high beaker. This was then passed around the 7 or 8 of us who were there, and I am not sure if you have tried to sip from a three foot beaker without drowning. I was first, and fair to say got it badly wrong. I tipped it too far, with a mouth as wide open as the ferry door, and suddenly my throat was on fire, and the rest covered me from chin to toe. The man in the muddy wellies could have died laughing.

But after the initial shock, the warmth I felt was like nothing I had ever experienced.

 After the tour we were invited to try a glass of the bottled product, and I was hooked.

Fast forward to 1996 when a friend of mine told me I could buy Whisky at £5 a bottle in Paddy’s Market in Glasgow, but only on a particular stall, which was pointed out to me. You paid your five pounds, then the guy would disappear under the back of the stall with a set of keys more familiar to a Victorian jailer. And hey presto, the label was still wet, only joking.

I cannot recall the name but it only had a front label that said “Made in the UE”  and the name Scottish whisky, and a photograph of a piper on it. UE must have stood for Up Elderslie way.

I bought a bottle and that evening invited up my old Boss, a great man from Skye, let’s just call him Ewen, because that’s his name.

We drank the lot, although I have to say it was a very strange taste. The next day I felt worse than I have ever done. But did not dare call the man known as Ewen, in case he thought I was not up to the job of sharing a bottle of an evening. He phoned me later that evening, confessing that he was also feeling pretty bad. Needless to say, I never visited Paddy’s again for a dram, or whatever it was.

The sad thing is that I will never get the chance again to try that incredible Bowmore white spirit.

Nowadays my favourite is Laphroaig, but I have also tried various supermarket own brand Islay whiskies, and found these to be excellent value for money. I can honestly say, I cannot guess which distillery they come from.

Fair to say they are not from the UE!

Photo Credits:

Photo credit: mrgu82 via photopin cc
Photo credit: perldude via photopin cc
Photo credit: Neil Melville-Kenney via photopin cc
Photo credit: larsomat via photopin cc
Photo credit: mrgu82 via photopin cc
Photo credit: Gareth Harper via photopin cc
Photo credit: larsomat via photopin cc
Photo credit: Runar Eilertsen via photopin cc
Photo credit: shaguarxkr via photopin cc

Tags: BowmoreDistillery Stories


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

You might be interested in

More from the blog

Login / register