Islay is a magical Scottish island, nestling off the coast of the mainland, a land of legend and rugged landscapes. Often called the Queen of the Hebrides, it’s also known as the home of Bowmore single malt Scotch whisky.
The island is about as far away geographically and visually from Regent Street in London as you can imagine, but it was there at a tasting session that I discovered the deep pleasure of its 40 Year Old whisky. As a connoisseur, I’ve done my level best over the years to work my way through Scotland’s 2000-plus single malts, and the chance to sample this rare masterpiece on a chilly winter’s night in London was not one to be missed.
As I looked at its tawny glow, I realised that many skilled craftsmen, and countless generations of experience, all the way back to the days of Robert Burns, had gone into creating this very special moment that I was about to embark upon.
Apparently, only 53 specially hand-blown bottles containing this remarkable drink have been made – Bowmore commissioned two of Scotland’s foremost glass artists, Brodie Nairn and Nichola Burns, to create a vessel worthy of its finest malt. No two are the same – each bottle has a unique design – adding to its appeal.
As I gazed at the dram in my hand, I realised that I was about to savour forty years of history, a drink that was born when man had first stepped onto the moon, the first Jumbo jet flew, and the Beatles were splitting up.
Four decades on, the drink did not disappoint. The nose, taste, finish and balance were all there in an impressive combination which couldn’t be faulted. In a sense, it felt more like an experience rather than simply tasting a drink.
For the aficionados of fine malts who look for something special and high standards, the 40 Year Old Bowmore undoubtedly represents whisky at its very best.
Priced at £6,500 per bottle, I’m not sure if every whisky drinker will be rushing to buy a couple for the Christmas stocking, but for the man – or indeed woman – who appreciates fine things, and can afford it, this is a truly memorable purchase.