A collaboration between craftsmen

“The plague is the Devil’s work right enough. But he won’t get the better of me!” – From Highlander and the Devil (Traditional Scottish folk tale)

What more apt words amid a global pandemic with which to commence the latest edition in what now represents a trilogy of Spotlight Series eZines in association with Bowmore Islay single malt Scotch whisky?

Like its two predecessors, this edition focuses on an extraordinary collaboration by Bowmore, this time between the acclaimed Islay single malt Scotch whisky maker and one of the world’s most renowned graphic and comic book artists, Frank Quitely.

As in the earlier two collaborations – with luxury carmaker Aston Martin and with independent French film maker and artist Thomas Vanz, respectively – Bowmore No Corners to Hide represents a triumphant expression of the craftsmanship of fine single malt whisky brought to life in a fresh and compelling way. Or should we say in a devilishly fine way? For the first in what will be a series of partnerships between Bowmore and Quitely explores one of the most famous of Islay’s many myths and legends with Satan himself at the centre of the narrative. Rather than spoil the surprise here, we’ll let you discover the story for yourself via our main feature (page 6).

The great achievement of Bowmore No Corners to Hide is the ingenious way in which that narrative is not only encapsulated in the packaging but also in the whisky itself. Step forward Bowmore Master Blender Ron Welsh (pictured below), who sought to craft a duo of Bowmore expressions that somehow encapsulated the elements that were so integral to the story.

They found thrilling voice in a 23 Year Old, 51.5% ABV deep gold expression, redolent of acacia honey and marzipan with a suitably Islay underbelly of peat; and a 32 Year Old 47.3% ABC variant bursting with Seville orange peel and Manuka honey tones but given steel by those classic Bowmore tones of peat smoke and iodine (see full tasting notes page 10). The whiskies are priced at US$400 and US$2,995 respectively, premium price points which reflect both the long and careful aging of the spirits and also their collectability thanks to the artistry of Quitely and the limited-edition, channel-specific nature of the duo.

As Frank Quitely himself points out in a delightfully engaging interview (page 8), this was not a case of an artist simply illustrating some whisky packaging. “Without doubt it’s been one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve worked on,” he says. “It’s actually a collaboration to do with storytelling. It’s to do with tradition and with passing down a culture. And for me, the fact that the whiskies have been chosen and finished to reflect a narrative, and that the liquid that’s in the bottles are exceptionally nice whiskies means that everything about it is satisfying.”

Bowmore brand owner Beam Suntory’s commitment to projects as ambitious as this one that are solely targeted at travel retail sends out a welcome message to a channel that has been plunged into darkness over recent times. As the sector begins to see more daylight, innovation and boldness of this nature will surely be key to accelerating the recovery and delighting the travelling consumer of the future. If the pandemic is the devil’s work, he surely won’t ultimately get the better of the travel retail channel. And in the case of No Corners to Hide, he has actually lent it a helping hand.

Martin Moodie, Founder & Chairman, The Moodie Davitt Report

Spotlight Series - November 2021

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