May 212014
 

Bowmore Tempest (Batch 3)

55.6% abv

Score:  84.5/100

 

Having now shared a few words on the first edition of Tempest, let’s contrast a little against a more recent version.  This is Batch 3.  Currently, a rebranded Batch 4 is sitting on the shelves here in Alberta.  I’ve yet to try that most recent incarnation, but will hopefully get to it soon. 

Bowmore has been doing a lot of things right in recent years.  Some neat one-offs and some new editions to the range have been welcome additions.  While I can’t necessarily get behind some of the younger NAS releases, such as Surf and Legend, I can say that the distillery is winning me back one bottle at a time.  For a while there I was a little disillusioned. 

Seeing as I spilled most of the beans in the previous review (linked above), I imagine I can be a little less wordy here, and simply dive in.  Tempest Batch 3 is still a fierce dram, of course.  Big and flavourful, rich and full of character.  While it may not tick all the boxes the first batch did, I do still like it enough to buy and drink.  This time ’round though, I believe you need to be a little more of a died-in-the-wool peathead to immediately cotton to this one.  Batch 1 had a rounded sweetness that likely would have worked to broaden the appeal.  Here you have a slightly sharper and more prickly Islay malt at a hefty abv.  Highly possible that this one is not for the faint of heart.  The peat and smoke are loud and obnoxious.  That’s right up my alley, personally, but may make for a narrower target market.

While Batch 1 was an ‘old soul’ of a 10 year old, this a youthful 10.  So be it.   If you chance upon the different batches on the shelves anywhere though…I would highly recommend grabbing  the first edition over the later ones.  Just my two cents. 

Nose:  A lot of chocolate.  Some hay and herbal notes.  Dusty barn.  Smoke.  Lemon.  Fish and brine.  Some caramel pudding.  Salt and pepper.  Sea water.  Maybe just a touch floral.

Palate:  Big, sharp attack.  Fishy notes and burning barley.  Chocolate and licorice.  Very ‘naked’.  Ashy.  Does somewhat bitter out a bit unfortunately.  Lacks the balanced creaminess that made the first such a charmer.

Thoughts:  A fairly one-dimensional malt that doesn’t hold a candle to the first batch.  Having said that…it’s still a very fine dram.  Expect something along the lines of Caol Ila or very young Port Ellen in terms of mouth attack.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:57 pm
May 212014
 

Bowmore Tempest (Batch 1)

56.3% abv

Score:  89/100

 

I think this was released in 2009 or 2010 (forgive my lack of research).  Does that make me fashionably late?  Or maybe just the slacker who slept in, and now shows up all disheveled and interruptive?

While I concede that I’m not certain of the exact year this was released, I do recall my excitement upon hearing there was to a young, entry level cask strength Bowmore on the shelves.  Of course, like everything else, it would have hit Canadian shores much later than other markets, effectively rendering the release date moot anyway.  Either way…a few words on the first batch of Bowmore Tempest:

With all of the shitty, negative trending going on right now with NAS (No Age Statement) bottlings, there is one trend that I can absolutely get behind.  That of more and more distilleries releasing cask strength malts into their core ranges.  Over the past few years we’ve been lucky enough to see the likes of Glenfiddich Distillery Edition, Glenlivet Nadurra, Auchentoshan Valinch, GlenDronach Cask Strength, nearly every Ardbeg, etc.  Of course, there are also the familiar faces such as Aberlour a’bunadh, Glenfarclas 105 (not CS, but BIG nevertheless), Laphroaig CS, Lagavulin 12, the Port Charlotte PC series, etc.  Good times for flavour junkies. 

At one time Bowmore used to have a cask strength release as well, but that’s a malt I haven’t seen in years, aside from a dram from an old bottle on Islay a couple years back.  Fortunately, however, they’ve now opted to give us the goods as we want ’em: big, bold and relatively unadulterated.  Namely, this 10 year old Tempest and the 15 year old Laimrig.  These whiskies…man…if I had my way these profiles would be the future of the distillery. 

Bowmore has worn many masks over the years.  It’s sort of like the Gary Oldman of Islay malts.  Highly malleable…infinitely chameleonic.  Usually interesting enough to win you over.  The true Bowmore profile is sorta hard to pin down, to be honest, but in the Tempest and Laimrig, Bowmore have really managed to knock it out of the park, and bring back a familiar style that has seemingly been supplanted by a more floral elegance in recent years.  Laimrig carries the sherried heft of smoked Bowmore with flair and a depth of jammy-ness that is a return to an older, more fruity style.  Tempest, on the other hand, brings a more naked (primarily bourbon cask matured, I would assume).  I’m a fan of both, but the Laimrig, in particular, is a showstopper.

As for the Tempest itself…

We’re looking at Batch 1 here.  It’s a deep whisky, balanced and hiding a surprising maturity (beyond 10 years, I’d say).  Subsequent batches are substantially different unfortunately.  Not bad, by any means, but not the same, and definitely not quite as good.  If only this particular dram were replicable and consistent in this incarnation (which it has obviously proven not to be), Tempest would be a rather perfect young whisky.   

Nose:  Smoke and peat, o’course.  Chocolate.  Coffee.  Cracked pepper.  Orange and Lemon.  Some notes that aren’t far off from an Ardbeg.  Caramel and pear.  Some unexpected creaminess.  Baked Alaska. 

Palate:  Sweet candy arrival, through smoke and into licorice.  A lot of fresh squeezed citrus and more cracked pepper.  Either very active bourbon casks leveeing these spicy notes, or a bit of sherry influence.  Either way…crackling with nifty ‘Pop Rock’ surprises.  There’s an earthiness here that hints at Garden Burgers, interestingly enough.

Thoughts:  Hmmm…much like many first editions of named releases, I have a sneaking suspician this was a ‘best foot forward malt’.  (Read: there are some older, better casks in here than we’ll see in future editions.)  Great balance.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:39 pm
Dec 022013
 

Master Of Malt – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Late last year (2012), the good folk at Master of Malt launched a new line of independent bottlings.  Perhaps it was a retaliatory gesture aimed at the creative geniuses behind the Dali-esque naming conventions and abstract tasting notes of the SMWS.  Or maybe it was a shot at Edradour in the way of ‘Aha!  We too can dupe the public into spending much on wee 50cl (500ml) bottles!’  Or maybe, just maybe…it was simply because they had access to some really good whisky and wanted to provide another alternative in the ever expansive market of independent bottling.   

Either way, all three scenarios are met head on with the new brand ‘That Boutique-y Whisky Company’.  The niche here is how utterly ridiculous these bottles look nestled amidst the shelves of austere single malt Scotch whisky packaging.  Each label is adorned with comic book-esque drawings artistically reminiscent of a cross between ‘Where’s Waldo’, ‘Tintin’ and ‘Beavis And Butthead’.  The images are not random bits of artistic tomfoolery, however.  They are rather cleverly reflective of the distilleries captured within the glass, and depict some subtle secrets and whisky geekery, sure to have the whiskily-inclined salivating at unraveling all of the hidden meanings.

Now…much like the old adage ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’, it would be a big mistake to dismiss these releases as novelty items.  I mean really big mistake.  As much as the purists may prefer a more…ummm…elegant outward appearance for our snooty tipple’s daily wardrobe, the simple fact of the matter is as mentioned above:  there is some damn good whisky in these bottles.  As soon as these are naked in the glass, all doubt disappears.  We’ll come to some actual tasting notes and details in just a moment.

A little on the bottings themselves…

Each release is wax-sealed, cask strength and non chill-filtered.  Further, in a rather interesting move…they are also non age statement (NAS) whiskies.  If I understand correctly though, these are not single cask releases.  Rather they are built in small ‘parcels’ to a specific desired quality.  *(If I’m wrong here, please correct me).  Either way…the NAS approach will allow Master Of Malt much greater future flexibility in regard to batch variance.  Rest assured, friends…if any of you are naturally cynical about the whole NAS concept (and I know many of you are, especially in light of the whole 1824 deal) …these are not young whiskies.  You can tell just by nosing.

One other point to note:  While other independent bottlers seem to be struggling for some variety in their portfolios, MofM have managed releases from Port Ellen, Brora, Ardbeg, Macallan, Caperdonich, etc.  Neat stuff. 

At this point I am won over.  Can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Forgive the quality of photos (or lack thereof).  They were thrown together rather quickly in the  shop.

 

Secret Distillery (Batch 1)045

55.4% abv     486 bottles

Score:  89/100

Nose:  Tobacco and raisins.  Cinnamon and fresh scones.  Some floral notes.  Baking spices.  Fudge and caramel macchiato.  Honey.  Creamy caramel with fruit.  Rich, rich, rich.

Palate:  Surprisingly tart up front.  Followed by big, dark intimidating fruitcake notes.  Then some apple.  Think a’bunadh meets amaretto with a wee splash of Southern comfort.

Thoughts:  A neat one.  Both in character and out of character at the same time.  Like seeing this distillery in another dimension.

*Secret Distillery’s real name rhymes with Ben Schmarclas.

 

Macallan (Batch 3)048

43.4% abv     245 bottles

Score:  86.5/100

Nose:  Bread dough.  Nice spices..and lots of ’em.  Some apple pie, heavy on the cinnamon.  Some old library notes.  Buttery sauce.  A little atypical of Macallan.

Palate:  Creamy and spicy.  A fair bit of dry oak.  Over-toasted marshmallow.  Grape skins.  Bitter chocolate.  Fairly tannic.  Zippy with spice and very pleasing apple notes.

Thoughts:  Not a bad whisky, but the low, low abv makes me think this one cooked in the warehouse for a while.  If this is indeed and older dram…I’m a tad underwhelmed.

 

Clynelish (Batch 2)042

50.6% abv     319 bottles

Score:  92/100

Nose:  Lavender and perfume.  Some pepper.  Nougat and honey.  Lemon poppyseed muffins.  A little orange juice.

Palate:  Wow!!  Old wax and dunnage warehouse.  Just extinguished candle.  Oil lamp.  Charred oak.  Some smoke.  Sooooo old school.  Cinnamon.  Apple juice and skins at the back end.  One of the all time great palates.  Loved it.

Thoughts:  Some disconnect between nose and palate, but they are at least complimentary.  The palate though…gad!…extra points for sure.  Just wow!

 

Springbank (Batch 2)053

53.1% abv     450 bottles

Score:  88.5/100

Nose:  Pickle.  Dust and pine.  A bit of peat, yeah.  Flinty.  Winter wood fire.  Clove and pepper.  Pine sap.  So odd…so unique…so intriguing.

Palate:  Now there’s the smoke.  Kinda oily.  Notes that should only be found in older whisky (wonder how old this actually is).  Some great sweetness meets the machine smoke.  Some figgy notes with honey.  Smoked fruit skins.  Pear, apple and currant.

Thoughts:  Very different for a Springbank.  The pine and pickle notes really threw me off, but surprisingly…worked out just fine in this one.  I liked it.

 

Highland Park (Batch 1)047

44.7% abv     241 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Sweet nose with a great composition.  Tangy jam note.  Peach, orange and lemon.  Warm leather and a very inviting salty note (makes the mouth water just inhaling it).  A touch of oil.

Palate:  Smoke and earthy notes.  Hay.  A mix of green and purple grapes.  Walnut.  Old school heft and some moderately subtle sherry-like tang.  Tart marmalade.

Thoughts:  Balance, balance, balance.  Again…a little out of character, but not too far off the path.  Not bad at all.

 

Bowmore (Batch 2)038

49% abv     292 bottles

Score:  89.5/100

Nose:  Farmy and iodione-heavy.  Rubber, smoke and other such.  Lemon zest.  Damp soil.  Smoky fruits.  Gravel dust.  Dry ash.  Sultanas.  Develops a bit of orange and some creaminess, surprisingly…but only if you give it a bit of time.

Palate:  Oh yeah!  Oily..smoky…earthy, and rich in dark red and purple fruits.  Think Laimrig meets motor oil.  Plum and purple grape.

Thoughts:  A well-earned 89.5.  Maybe even closer to a 90.  This is a neat Bowmore.  These recent profiles that combine jammy fruit notes and industrial oiliness…win.  Just win.

 

Caol Ila (Batch 1)039

45.8% abv     732 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Prickly and briny.  Peat and smoke.  Sweet and citric at the same time.  Orange oil.  Olives.  Candy sweetness.  A dusting of salt and pepper.

Palate:  Very Caol Ila.  Some melon with citrus.  Toffee and smoke.  Oyster with salt, pepper and lemon.  Wet rock.  Ocean shoreline.  oil.  There are some notes that make me think of Kilchoman (if that distillery’s malt were a little more mature).

Thoughts:  Damn decent Caol Ila, but definitely not the best of the indies I’ve tried.  Particularly liked the oceanic notes and oily saltiness.

 

Look forward to future releases.

Thanks to our mate, Andrew Ferguson at Kensington Wine Market, for the chance to try these. 

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:19 pm
Jun 022013
 

Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection023

54.6% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

I love personality in my whisky.  I’ll even forgive a wee flaw or two in a dram, so long as the whisky has enough ‘quirk’ to it to make me sit back in relection and contemplate its uniqueness.  Not that I’m suggesting this Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection is a flawed malt in any way.  Quite the contrary actually.  It is, however, completely unrecognizable as a Bowmore.  Or any Bowmore I’ve ever tried anyway.

I find that consistency of profile in Bowmore through the years is as elusive as a full set of teeth in a hillbilly hoedown.  Not saying this is a bad thing; just noting that I personally would be hard-pressed to tell you what the distillery’s main profile really is.  We’ve seen deep tropical notes, heavy florals, smoky bacon n’ chocolate chips, briny meaty ones and much more.  All interesting in their own right, and all from different eras.  Fun stuff, but what really is Bowmore then?

Well…we certainly won’t answer that question here.  Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection is a humdinger and a headscratcher of a dram.

I first tried this one in late 2012 at the Bowmore distillery on Islay.  I recall not being overly wowed by it.  It was tasted alongside the Springtide, 25 year old and one or two others though.  And, to be fair, this little tasting session followed hard on the heels of a great tour which had culminated in sipping drams pulled straight from the casks in Bowmore’s Number 1 vaults with a few mates and Heather, a wonderful lady who works at the distillery and was our guide for the Craftsman’s Tour.  Perhaps I was an unfairly harsh critic that day.

Anyway…revisiting this one a few months on, and I like it just fine.  It’s a little closer to the heavy industrial oils and tarry notes I’ve met in some of the monstrous output from the folks at Bruichladdich (in particular, an odd Octomore cask sample I tried), but brought down a notch or two in terms of overall might.  Kinda like ‘Hulk Lite’.

The title, if you’re wondering, derives from the fact that the Bowmore maltmen did indeed select five sherry butts which were originally filled on July 13th of 1995.  These butts, numbered 1551, 1552, 1553, 1559 & 1560, are what you’re drinking in this 13 year old Bowmore.  This release was limited to 3000 bottles, and I believe is now, sadly, one of the dearly departed.

Nose:  Rubber.  Smoke and tar.  New bicycle tires.  Figs and mincemeat.  Salty smoked meatiness.  Heavy BBQ sauce (but not more on the salt…less on the sweet).  Char and burning woods.  Old coffee.  Would not peg this as a Bowmore.

Palate:  Wow.  Meaty again.  Cough drops.  Fisherman’s Friend.  Chocolate, deep and dark.  Orange and grapefruit pith.  Smoky and peaty, but also juicy and saucy.  Greasy and oily.  Sharp and biting…but in a good way.  A never-ending finish.  What an odd Bowmore.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:53 am
May 142013
 

Bowmore Laimrig 15 y.o.015

54.4% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

In late 2012, a few mates and I spent about a week or so on the Hebridean Isle of Islay, non-soberly carousing our way through the distilleries, whisky bars and restaurants.  And…uh…pretty much anywhere else we could drink (legally or otherwise).

Late one eve, just before last call in Bowmore’s legendary whisky bar, Duffies, the manager, David, bought me a dram of something special.  Very special.  So special, in fact, that it ended up being my favorite dram of the trip.  And trust me…there were a lot of good drams on that journey.

The malt David picked for me was a Bowmore Feis Ile 2011 limited release of the Laimrig 15 y.o.  Now…just to clarify…this was not the regular release of Laimrig, but one specific to the annual whisky and music festival on Islay, Feis Ile.  Sadly…for all my begging, pleading, cajoling and threatening (well…not really the latter), I was unable to procure a bottle of this.  It apparently sold out within hours of release, so my chances of scoring one weren’t good, but you can’t blame me for trying.  I’ll now shamelessly use this forum to ask again…if anyone has a bottle they’ll part with, please drop me a line.

The release we’re reviewing here is not that particular one, but is still a helluva dram.  Big and rich fruits meet machinery-esque flinty and industrial notes meet the smoke and brine we’d expect from Bowmore.  This is a return to old school Bowmore.  We’re veering away from the florals of recent years and moving back into the fruit-rich sherries that made for magical releases from this distillery through the 60s and 70s.  Yum.

There’s a lot going on with this whisky…and that’s a good thing.  I love it when I can sink into a dram for an hour or so and just…escape.  I think I could pick flavor threads out of this for hours.

Nose:  Chocolate covered cherries.  Nice jammy fruits.  Tobacco, leather and shoe polish.  Lightly smoked pork.  Flinty and oily.  Some coal and peat smoke.  Smells like evening walks on chilly nights on Islay…smoke lingering in the oceanic air.  Some rubber.  Raisin and eucalyptus.

Palate:  Plum and grape juice.  Again…rubber.  Smoke.  Slightly tarry.  Salty.  A little bit of pomegranate.  Cough drops/throat lozenges.  Slightly pithy.  Very, very drinkable.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:07 pm
Mar 182013
 

A.D. Rattray Bowmore 15 y.o. (Cask #2057)009

56.5% abv

Score:  90/100

 

Wow.  What a nifty little Bowmore.  No distillery on Islay can boast even close to as many faces as Bowmore.  A true shapeshifter if ever there was.  Nailing down the profile of this distillery is an exercise in understanding the history of its development through time.  The ‘fruit age’…the ‘floral age’…the more contemporary ‘smoky caramel bacon age’.  But every now and again we find a little anomaly like this.  A malt that defies its lineage.

Herein lies the beautiful dilemma of buying single cask independent bottlings.  Much like any game of chance, the purchase of these releases is a surprise each go-round.  But…with great risk comes great reward.  Here is a bottle where any outlay of cash is more than rewarded in sheer shimmering quality.

This 15 year old Bowmore is a sensory delight.  Not perfect, but absolutely surprising and beguiling.  It hits high note after high note and when the glass is dry…I can’t help but reach for another.

Sadly…this is a malt from days past.  If you happen to chance upon it in your travels…do scoop one.

Nose:  Smoke.  Iodine.  Farmyard.  Burnt tires.  Cola and toffee.  Raspberry puree.  Fruity fudge.  Lovely really.  The sort of whisky nose I crave.  Seems a little more mature than 15 years.

Palate:  Green apple.  Ash.  Touch of creamy chocolate.  Asphalt.  Cinnamon.  Apple Pie.  Smoke.  Cola.  Rather lush jammy notes.  Big juicy sherry.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:40 pm
Jan 272013
 

Bowmore 12 y.o.004

40% abv

Overall:  84.5/100

 

This is one of the entry level Bowmore releases.  While there are one or two slightly less expensive variants (Legend, Surf, etc) the quality in the bottle is reflective of the lower digits following the dollar sign (or pound…or euro).  If it’s your first time tackling this distillery’s output…start here, not at one of the lesser siblings.

Those fearing the primal brawny lash and bold palate associated with big peaty Islay malts may rest assured that Bowmore 12 is a much more approachable dram.  There is an odd amalgamation of Islay and not Islay in the bottle here.  Sure, there is a bit of a medicinal edge and some peatiness, and some tarry meaty notes but these are much restrained here and held in check in favor of an emphasis on sweet smoke, salt and citrus.

Details…

Nose:  The smoke here is tame and savoury-sweet. If you’ve ever cooked with Liquid Smoke you’ll have an idea as to the nose of this whisky.  Temper that with a citric (zest and pithiness) peat tang, briny Islay seabreeze and a slight iodine dressing. Some shaved chocolate.  Smoked oyster with lemon juice.  This is about as close as I can get to what you’ll pick up on the nose.

Palate:  This isn’t a big whisky (maybe it would be at a higher abv).  In fact the arrival is so silky smooth that it is almost disappointing.  Credit where credit is due though…it is distinct from the other Islay malts and it is quite tasty. Smoke…lemon…chocolate…some earthy, vegetal salty notes from the peat.  A few odd sharper notes throw the balance off just towards the end though.

All in all…quite a decent whisky. I like it. Great for a mildly stormy night. Save the Supernova for the first real snowstorm of the year.

         

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:58 am
Oct 252012
 

Bowmore Surf

40% abv

Score:  76.5/100

 

Bowmore and I are not the easiest of bedfellows.  At one point it was kind of a love/hate deal.  Some of my favorite drams (and further…my all time favorite whisky) are Bowmore.  At the same time some of the most unbelievably mediocre malts I’ve ever tried originated from the same distillery.  What gives?

Bowmore Surf is a Travel Retail exclusive, and not available here on our distant shores.  Normally if you tell me that I can’t have something I only want it more (market it a limited edition and I am f*cked…seriously.  Gotta have it).  Fortunately for my pocketbook, and consequently the longevity of my marriage…I don’t need to have this, no matter whether it is limited/exclusive/rare/whatever.

This is a malty young Bowmore.  And not a great one.  It is one from the lower end of the Bowmore spectrum, in terms of both price point and quality.  Age?  Not sure.  I’ve heard possibly a 12 year old.

Nose:  Notes of smoked meat, a bit of tangy citrus and earthy peat up front.  There are notes of chocolate, though none too bold, and salt.  Kinda more ‘sweat’ salt as opposed to ‘briny’ salt.  Yeah…exactly.  Not quite as bad as you’d think though.  Hints of dry and bitter dark berries (on both the nose and palate), and quite bitter greens (again…they show up across the tongue and on the nose).  Smoke on the palate, some gritty, briny grainy-ness.

The finish has some staying power and fortunately those more pungent and bitter notes mellow into something a little softer and caramel smooth after a few moments.  Pleasant and natural oak-leeched caramel, that is.

Not bad.  Not great.  You won’t find it around here, but I guess worth trying if opportunity presents.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  www.singlemaltwhiskyshop.com

 Posted by at 10:18 pm
Aug 262012
 

Bowmore 15 y.o. Darkest

43% abv

Score:  84/100

 

Years back, Bowmore was one of the old vanguard producing malts that carried a gorgeous fruit profile, often tropical and exotic, moreso than the slightly one-dimensional releases of late.  Trust me…I’ve tried them.  These malts, primarily from the 60s, 70s and 80s are really something to behold if you can get your paws on ’em.

Many an eve has been spent on quiet ponderence (errr…sometimes rather boisterous) with members of The Collective as to just what happened to change things, and what it would take to get back on track.  A few distilleries, we’ve noted, actually seem to be moving in the right direction of late.  Won’t mention them here, but the next decade or so should be rather interesting.

Anyway…

I’m not the biggest fan of the new stable of Bowmore. Let’s get that out front first thing. I have tried several of them and to date, still reach for the 12 year old more often the others. Even that is only slightly better than middle of the road malt to me. Bowmore is held in such esteem that I immediately expect more from them. Perhaps this is unfair. Perhaps not. With well over 200 years of history and more awards than any other Scotch single malt, expectations are bound to be high.

But having said that…refer back to first paragraph.  Bowmore has produced some of the greatest whiskies I have ever tasted.  Where I used to be rather lukewarm to the distillery, I have more than come round.

Let’s move on to the Darkest itself…

There seems to be more smoke here than the 12 y.o., but a tad less peat. The peaty edge logically fading a bit with a few extra years in wood. I would sort of expect the smoke to peter out a bit too, but…doesn’t seem to have. The nose is smoky chocolate, treacle, sherry and bacon. Fairly fruity (but dark dried fruits) and a little grassy. There is something dark and menacing in the back fire and brimstone?  Not entirely pleasant. Funnily enough…one of the eves I tried this, I did so with a group of others. One of them (Scott) said it “has a darker side to it”. True…very true.

The palate is slightly bitter but fairly mellow overall. The smoke and chocolate are primary here with the sweetness tagging along like a perky little brother. Tangy peat and fruit skin are there too. It is the smoke that lingers though, with a tart finale that trumpets its last fading call long after your final sip.

This is another malt that absolutely benefits from some oxidation.  I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy this bottle more after it has been open and sat for a couple of months (if you’re the sort who doesn’t drain them in days, that is).

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:36 am
Aug 192012
 

Bowmore 1972 (Signatory)

45.4% abv

Overall:  93/100

 

The mystique that surrounds Bowmore is like that of the Macallan.  There is an age-old reputation, bucketloads of history and rumors of magic that surround this whisky from Islay’s oldest distillery.  Much like the Macallan, I find that younger (or perhaps ‘more current’ would be a better choice of words) bottlings of Bowmore are simply not up to much, and certainly do not support the reputation that this distillery rests on.  Veteran drammers insist that older vintages were astounding.

So…if we want to scrape aside the scree and see a little more of the bedrock that Bowmore has been built upon exactly how far back to we have to go?  Unfortunately I can’t tell you that.  I can tell you however, that I had to double the age of the oldest Bowmore I had tried to date in order to find the one that put a spell on me.  This 1972 Signatory independent bottling was 36 years old at the time of decanting.  This…this is not the Bowmore that the younger generation of malt fiends know.

Here age and beauty waltz like old lovers and make something magical happen.  This is like looking back in time and seeing how stunningly beautiful some of the aged Hollywood starlets are that many of us young’uns (relatively speaking) only know in their twilight years.  This is class.  This is elegance.

The nose delivers chocolate, drying fruit, a little orange zest and a touch of lemon pepper.  Vanilla and butter toffee, a touch of aloe, a whiff of smoke and light brine.  I sat with my nose in the glass for about 40 minutes before my first taste, simply unable to believe this was the same distillery that produces the Bowmore expressions that hit the shelves nowadays.

The arrival is silky smooth and the development is as crystalline and unmarred as a lake surface on a windless day.  (My wife sipped without grimace…that is saying something).  First flavors are toasted wood and dry smoke.  Soft chocolate and raisin are next and the citrus develops a little more boldness in peeking out towards the end.  The lingering notes however, are primarily toffee and lightly toasted oak.  Thankfully these notes are the kind that stay ’til the party’s end, and even then you are sad to close the door behind them.

Andrew Ferguson, From Kensington Wine Market, who graciously provided this sample, told me he refers to this as the ‘poor man’s Black Bowmore’.  Hm.  Not far off really.  The Black Bowmore is still untouchable, in my books, but I’ll take this as a substitute anyday.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Shamelessly cribbed from The Whisky Exchange

 Posted by at 2:47 pm