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December 14, 2021

Bowmore Reveals Ultimate Rare Collection 2021

We taste three heavily aged whiskies from Bowmore, including a stunning 50 Year Old distilled in 1969.

By Alex Martin

Not many whisky distilleries can casually drop three heavily-aged expressions towards the end of the year, but then not many distilleries have been around for 240 years. Bowmore, known as one of the most collectible Scotch whiskies in the world, revealed its Ultimate Rare collection for 2021 and gave Elite Traveler the chance to try it.

This trio of rare whiskies includes a 30 Year Old and a 40 Year Old, but eyes will be drawn to the Bowmore 1969 50 Year Old.  Limited to just 339 bottles, this rare liquid is the final inductee to the coveted Vaults Series, joining 1965, 1966 and 1964. The series celebrates whiskies aged in the legendary Vault No.1 at the Bowmore distillery, where aging casks were more exposed to the influences of Islay’s sea air.

The 50 Year Old has not escaped those influences. There is a salty, savouriness on the nose and palate. But it is subtle and sits in harmony with the fragrant notes you expect from Bowmore. Aged in American oak ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads, this whisky was one of the last to be distilled in the fabled 1960s, known as a golden age for the distillery. A price tag of $42,000 leaves its collectibility in no doubt.

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Bowmore Ultimate Rare collection plaque

A plaque in the Bowmore 1969 case tells its intriguing story / ©Bowmore

However, despite its age and hefty price tag, it is not the rarest of the three. That accolade goes to the 40 Year Old. Limited to just 161 bottles and priced at $9,000, the Ultimate Rare collection’s middle child arguably offers more value for the collector and greater intrigue for the drinker.

Distilled in 1978, this liquid is the result of four decades in a mix of American bourbon and Bodega sherry. Its deep mahogany color is more enticing than the 50 Year Old and the aromas more complex. Tropical fruits combine with butterscotch and tobacco spices to create an exceptional example of marrying bourbon and sherry influences together.

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That leaves us with the baby of the bunch and at $2,500, perhaps the bargain too. With 2,976 bottles globally, the 30 Year Old is nowhere near the level of scarcity of its older siblings, but at a much more approachable price, that allocation will go just as quickly as the other two.

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This whisky was nurtured for three decades in sherry hogsheads and ex-bourbon barrels. The result is a rich and fruity liquid that sits in harmony with Bowmore’s trademark subtle smoke. Think salted caramel, cooked pineapple and star anise. It is a rich dram taken from two rare casks and offered at a price that will tempt both collectors and drinkers.

Bowmore 40 Year Old

The Bowmore 40 Year Old / ©Bowmore

Tasting Notes

Bowmore 1969 50 Year Old

Nose: Savory influences brought about from its early life in Vault No.1. The classic Bowmore smoke sits in harmony with a salty spice. A dash of water brings out fruitier notes such as coconut cream, salted caramel and sweetened cream.

Palate: Lemon zest and coconut combine with a peat smoke reminiscent of a tropical cocktail at a barbecue. A mellow flavor that retains a savory undertone.

Finish: A hint of luxurious black truffle sits in the background during a long and warming finish.

ABV: 46.9%

Score: 8.5/10

Bowmore 40 Year Old

Nose: Instantly luxurious. Its deep color translates into strong wooded notes. The peatiness is almost overcome by the level of tropical fruits and spice. Tinned peaches, butterscotch and burnt mango all combine.

Palate: A savory start with nut oil and leather. There are tobacco spices, like an empty cigar box, mixed with sweeter influences. Just a drip of Bowmore’s trademark distillery character remains, but it is to no detriment to this complex liquid.

Finish: Long, lingering, and luxurious.

ABV: 48.7%

Score: 9/10

Bowmore 30 Year Old

Nose: A real Bowmore malt. Floral notes and freshness, but still with subtle maritime influences.

Palate: Aromatic to begin with. Nutmeg and star anise, both indicative of heavy wood influence. A dash of water brings out fruitier notes such as ripe melon and mango.

Finish: Medium with sweeter notes going from strength to strength.

ABV: 45.1%

Score: 8/10

Bowmore 30 Year Old

The Bowmore 30 Year Old / ©Bowmore

[See also: Bowmore Unveils the Myth-Inspired No Corners to Hide Series]

The Bowmore Ultimate Rare Collection is available across selected markets now. For more information, visit

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