We probably all know the story of Islay’s ’round church’ by now, aye? Also known as the Kilarrow Parish Church, this place of worship was designed to a circular footprint, theoretically leaving no corner in which the devil could hide. Hmmm. Ok then.
The marketing people behind Bowmore couldn’t possibly leave a tale this rich unexploited (and let’s face it…nor would I). They expounded upon this fragmentary bit of lore, insisting that the devil had indeed been discovered in the church, from whence he was driven by the native Ileachs, running directly down the hill and through the gates of the Bowmore distillery, before sealing himself in a cask of single malt whisky bound for the mainland.
Clever gimmickry aside – and this is certainly that – I have to admit that the story isn’t the only great thing about this whisky. The malt is actually quite spectacular. If I’d have gotten ’round to tackling this review sooner, I’d also have lauded the brand for pairing their pitch with an age statement. The first and second releases of the Devil’s Casks were 10 year olds. Unfortunately – knuckling under to exactly what NAS opponents fear- after establishing a brand with a rabid following Suntory yanked the numbers off the bottle, jacked the prices sky high and hope we’ll simply accept this expression as yet another entry in the parade of NAS deceivers that continue marching past in this age of immediate financial gratification over long term reputation tarnishing.
Needless to say, I’m now on record as saying grab the first or second if you can find them, skip the third. On principle, if nothing else.
But let’s get back on topic. This particular 10 year old heavily-sherried beast is a monster. A beautiful monster. Sweet jammy fruit notes smash headlong into the oceanic peatiness we crave from Islay’s shores. The result is intoxicating (beyond the physical effects). This and the Laimrig (great bedfellows for side-by-side sipping sessions, I might add) should be the distillery’s focal point going forward. Hey, if Ardbeg can pitch Uigeadail and Corryvreckan as core range stalwarts, why can’t Bowmore do likewise with hefty cask-strength offerings?
As I’ve said before, Bowmore is killing it with their current run of releases. Perhaps the talents of Ms. Rachel Barrie at work? Who knows. Lovin’ it either way.
Nose: Lots and lots of sherry. Wow. Raspberry, strawberry, mint, pepper and smoke. Immediately enamouring. Damp hay and ocean breeze. Milk chocolate. A fair bit of iodine. Both meaty and spicy. Dark and oily. Wet soil.
Palate: Big, big arrival. And very sweet. Smoky and ashy. Mixed berry jam on burnt toast. Salty and coastal. Dries a little, letting the barley step forward a bit from behind the peat and sherry. Black Forest cake. Tea. Some licorice and plum. Leaves behind big smoky, tarry ropes of apple and barley sweetness.
Thoughts: This is one of the best contemporary 10 year old malts I’ve ever encountered. Vibrant and full of life.
Thanks to my mate, Mike M, for sharing this one. Enjoyed the hell out of it. Cheers, Mike!
– Images & Words: Curt