From elegant tailoring and luxury watches to cutting-edge vehicles, Aston Martin partnerships are conscientiously chosen to reflect mutual values and a commitment to first-class design — but it’s not often that two esteemed names form a bond over a shared moment in time.
Recently revealed as the marque’s official whisky partner, Bowmore — established in 1779 — is both Islay’s oldest distillery and home to the oldest whisky maturation warehouse in the world. Like Aston Martin, heritage and artisanship are at the heart of the Bowmore brand, in addition to a quintessential Britishness and a commitment to creating exceptional experiences for its customers.
“We were looking to elevate our brand with an iconic and prestigious partner,” says Bowmore’s Master Blender, Ron Welsh. “The consensus was that Aston Martin would be perfect. We have the same ethos when it comes to hand-crafting and taking the time to produce a quality product.”
Aston Martin and Bowmore also have something else in common — a momentous year in 1964. This was the year in which the DB5 was transformed into a global automotive icon following its star turn in Goldfinger while, as a result of major manufacturing advancements at Bowmore, the rare, highly sought-after Black Bowmore single malt was first distilled.
“1964 was important for both companies,” says Miles Nurnberger, Director of Design, Aston Martin Lagonda. “When our team came together with Bowmore’s, we knew that we both had something incredible from 1964, so how were we going to capture that?”
The result — and the debut collaborative creation from the new partnership — is Black Bowmore DB5. Combining superb Scotch with an authentic DB5 component, this limited edition is a tribute to landmark innovation. Out of the 27 bottles made just 25 will go on sale, making it both an ultra-rare dram and a very special collectible.
Black Bowmore has an interesting story behind it. In 1964, Bowmore’s distillery team swapped out the traditional – and frankly dangerous – method of heating its copper stills with coal to a safer practice of containing the flammable liquid within an 18-tonne boiler. Installing the new boiler took time, giving the stills a chance to rest and regenerate their copper properties – which in turn affected the liquid contained therein. The inaugural distillation from the boiler produced the spirit that would become Black Bowmore, after resting for 29 years in uncommonly good-quality sherry casks which infused it with a distinctive tropical-fruit flavour. These inadvertent circumstances proved to be the perfect storm for producing what could arguably be the perfect Scotch. The new DB5 collaboration will mark Black Bowmore’s sixth bottling since its first in 1993 — only around 6,000 bottles have ever been made available to the public, heightening its allure.
Bowmore and Aston Martin have the same ethos in hand-crafting and taking the time to produce a quality product
In addition to its unusual properties, Black Bowmore 1964 holds a sentimental value for many of the whisky maker’s staff. The grandfather of Distillery Manager David Turner, for instance, was a warehouseman at Bowmore when the spirit was first distilled. “He worked in the malt barns and wheat houses and would have laid the casks down to rest in 1964. The first launch [Black Bowmore First Edition] means the most to me, as I was the Distillery Manager when it was released.”
Upon pouring a dram, it’s clear from the unusually deep, dark auburn colour why this Scotch has earned the “black” in its name. Aromas of tropical fruit — think ripe mango and banana — pack a punch on the nose, segueing into dark cherry and chocolate with a hint of smoke. The tropical aspect noticeably intensifies in the taste, rounded out by aspects of spice, caramel and coffee, before leaving a long-lasting, mouth-warming finish with a lingering touch of smoke as the fruity notes subside.
“It’s beautiful to taste and not like any other whisky I’ve drunk,” says Welsh. “Those strong tropical fruit notes would have been there right from the start and have developed over the years because the spirit has gone into the right cask. Bowmore has tropical characters in all of its whiskies, but it’s quite limited in a normal batch.”
Of course, how one enjoys a whisky is a matter of taste, but how would Welsh recommend drinking Black Bowmore? “I would pour myself a single dram with nothing in it at all and take my time to nose it over 10, 15 minutes before sipping,” he says. “The next week, I would do the same, but with a friend. This particular whisky is for sharing, but also for self-indulgence.”
In the packaging, the Aston Martin team brought its own brand of savoir-fair to complement Bowmore’s hand-crafted spirit. The novel design — each bottle taking as long as a week to complete — features an authentic, re-adapted DB5 piston, produced by the same company making them for the eagerly anticipated DB5 Continuation. This component was chosen, as Nurnberger explains, because the “cylinder is the soul of our sports cars and it brings the two companies together in an iconic yet very simple way”. He adds that the proportions applied to the bottle also echo the 'two-thirds / one-third ratio' that is applied to Aston Martin’s car designs, creating a sense of visual harmony.
The hand-blown glass bottle comes in an artisanal presentation case, handmade in Florence and crafted from string-grain calfskin. The DB5 influence reappears in the nickel-plated hinges and solid brass latch, as well as the chamois fitment and protective pad that keeps the bottle secure. The case can also be safely stowed in the boot of an Aston Martin thanks to a canvas slipcase lined with automotive Alcantara.
It’s certainly an auspicious start to Aston Martin’s latest partnership, which is primed to continue on a long-term basis. Hints are already being dropped of an upcoming collaboration taking place in 2021, in addition to dedicated Art of Living experiences. As Nurnberger puts it, the Black Bowmore DB5 1964 “makes history both literally and metaphorically with two icons brought together.
“The 1964 angle is of course retrospective, but also signals what happens next.”
Black Bowmore DB5 1964 will be available from late autumn 2020, priced at £50,000. For more information, visit bowmore.com