Bowmore Week – Day 7: Bowmore 21yo (43%, OB, Red Stripe, 750 ml)

Bowmore WeekAnd we’ve come already to the last day of the Bowmore Week. Up untill now we’ve had some pretty good new Bowmores and two Indie Bowmores from Cadenheads that were pretty good too, albeit somewhat different. What to pick to finish off this week. Yes why not, why not get an old bottle of Bowmore to have a small glimpse of what Bowmore was about in the old days. Pre FWP if I may say so.

Bowmore 21yo (43%, OB, Red Stripe, 750 ml)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Fat, creamy peat. Even if you put the glass away across the table. this aroma will find your nose. Very well balanced, and has a great sweetish underlying sweetness to it. Hints of paper and cardboard. No problem here. Sweat and most definitely some old bottle effect. Smallest hint of smoke and an even smaller hint of ashes. Most definitely no FWP nor is it perfumy. Clay and raspberry jam. No heavy or in your face peat but candy sweet, elegantly peated Bowmore. Compared to newer expressions, this is more about fruit, less about the flowers.

Taste: Peat with a little bite. Dryer than expected and less balanced than the nose. It’s about (old) peat and estery, fruity, sweetness. The clay emerges here too, and even some putty. Finishes even a bit bitter on wood (and earwax).

The sample I tasted here came from an almost empty bottle, and maybe this Whisky doesn’t take air so well, because if memory serves me well I found this one better earlier (more fruit on the palate), or maybe this Whisky is a victim of batch variation. Still this is a good Bowmore and I guess, a fresh-er bottle would score higher.

And the Bowmore week is now (almost) over. What conclusions can we make? First of all there are a lot of Bowmores out there, with lots of different profiles, ages and strengths, so the seven I tasted here are far from representative, but we could conclude that Bowmore is getting pretty good again. The standard 12yo is very good and an easy pick for any bang-for-you-buck list. The Tempest range is looking good, and the same goes for the Devil’s Casks. Let’s finish off, that I’m glad to see a late nineties Sherry Butt destined to be hand filled at the distillery (#1215) only shows, even more than the notorious Devil’s Casks, how good Bowmore on Sherry can get. More please!

Points: 87

Thanks Andre (Forrest) for bringing this bottle to my Tomatin (& Bowmore) tasting event.


Bowmore Week – Day 6: Bowmore 16yo 1997/2013 (53.2%, OB, Hand Filled at the Distillery, Sherry Cask #1215)

Bowmore WeekRecently I was invited to attend a master class or presentation (depends how you look at it) for The Devil’s Casks. The Devil’s Casks were already sold out at the time, so the focus was shifted more to the 23yo matured wholly in Port. I was a bit sceptical at first, since finishing in port usually makes for a harsh Whisky. This one was fully matured in Port, still it was good. I’m guessing the usual Port Pipes that are being used, hold vintage Red Port, but I think maybe these pipes were used to mature Colheita’s or Tawny Port, because the Whisky was very smooth and far from being harsh.

I only had a few sample bottles with me, so I had to make some choices. I didn’t bring the 23yo Port-Bowmore, but I did bring me a sample of this hand filled 1997 Sherry-Bowmore. This sample was used in the presentation to show (off) Bowmore matured in Oloroso Sherry Butt. Hmmm, I thought The Devil’s Casks were to show (off) Sherried-Bowmore. Strange Islay-er-landers!

Bowmore 16yo 1997/2013 (53.2%, OB, Hand Filled at the Distillery, Sherry Cask #1215)Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Nice dusty and dry, thick Oloroso Sherry. Meaty and full. Plenty of everything. What a fabulous Butt this must have been. Haagsche Hopjes (a Dutch coffee bon-bon). Dark chocolate (but not the extremely bitter kind from Equador). Tar and extremely nice and mellow woody notes. I wish it had some more steam locomotive essence to it, then it would have been perfect. Hints of sour wood and saw-dust. The more it breathes, the less meaty and the dryer it gets.

Taste: Yeah, forget about The Devil’s Casks (for a now) and have a look at this! Full, sweet Sherry with a little woody bite. Burned wood from a bonfire, lots of sweet tar and only a small hint of ashes. Maybe not even very complex, but a nice heavy Sherry Whisky. No sulphur and no other funny business going on here. Even the bitterness is nice in this one. Let it breathe for a while.

Since The Devil’s Casks are fetching something in the range of 300 Euro’s and this does about the same at auctions, it would be a no brainer for me which one to take. I’ve heard Bowmore had another Sherry cask that could be hand filled and that one is said to be even better!!! (Cask #23). I should go over and fill “me” own bottle of Bowmore!

Points: 92

Thanks to Gordon for bringing this to The Hague, but also Rachel for putting it in his suitcase 😉

Bowmore Week – Day 5: Bowmore 14yo 1992/2006 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 294 bottles)

Bowmore WeekAfter the new Small Batch Bowmore by Cadenhead’s, here is another 14yo, older, Cadenhead’s bottling but this time from the Authentic Collection. This is an older version distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2006. This is a single cask Whisky, bottled at cask strength as opposed to the newer Small Batch reviewed earlier that was from multiple (two) Bourbon Hogsheads.

Bowmore 14yo 1992-2006 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 294 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Überclean Bowmore. Malty, buttery and spicy. Lots of green leaves, vegetal freshness and licorice (with ashes). Very interesting nose. Again a Bowmore that has a perfumy note. It’s typical even though this isn’t a FWP-whisky, but it ís from the times a lot of Bowmores suffered from this phenomenon. Still this is a fine, rather clean and citrussy nose. Not a lot of smoke and peat come to think of it.

Taste: Sweet, some notes from white wine (very nice), quite spicy, but mostly sweet, or half-sweet as they say. Wood influence a small hints of soap. It almost tastes like a Fino Sherry cask matured whisky. Nice balance between the sweetness and the (white wine) acidity (lemon). Nice and it has good drinkability. I don’t want to scare you away, but even the texture is a bit soapy. Still not a FWP- Whisky though. A little bit hot, but not peppery as other Bowmores.

As said before, this is not a FWP-Whisky but it is from the feared era, and it does have some soapy and perfumy traits. It was on the wrong path but finally didn’t go astray. Hardly peaty nor smoky. There is some peat here, but that is a bit flowery and elegant. A Bowmore on the precipice I would say.

Cleaning my glass, it started foaming a bit 🙂

Points: 86

Thanks go out to Andre Z. who loaned me the bottle.

Bowmore Week – Day 4: Bowmore 10yo “The Devils Cask” (56.9%, OB, Small Batch Release, First Fill Sherry Casks, 6.000 bottles, 2013)

Bowmore WeekThis year the little brother of the four sisters Tempest was born. Both the Tempest’s and the Devil’s Casks are small batch releases, and hopefully are with us to stay. Each batch of the tempest counts at least 12.000 bottles and of this first Devil’s Casks only a measly 6.000 bottles were made.

The story behind this release can be read on the Bowmore website: Legend has it that the devil once visited the church in Bowmore. Now if you’ve ever seen it,you’ll know that the church is circular, built that way (so it’s said) so there would be no corner in which the devil could hide. The local congregation spotted the devil and chased him down through the village, into the gates of Bowmore Distillery. Here, the warehousemen were filling casks and loading them aboard the paddle steamer, The Maid of Islay. Gates and doors locked tight shut, every inch of the distillery was searched, but to no avail. As legend goes, the devil escaped in a cask of Bowmore bound for the mainland.

Bowmore The Devil's CasksColor: Copper brown.

Nose: Dusty dull Sherry nose. Lots of tar and some wood. Deep underlying fruits. Cherries and blackberries. Fresh air, steam, coal and tar. This just goes to show how well Bowmore does with the right sherry casks. Again slightly perfumy and floral, without the FWP. FWP is something that suits the profile of Bowmore and is part of it’s identity. The problem Bowmore had in the past is that it had way too much FWP. Today it is brought back to an amount where it add to the spirit. I love the cola, tar and toast that goes with this young Bowmore, since this is something only encountered in old stuff from the 60’s and 70’s (and before). Loving this, because a lot of the nose shows hints of stuff that could be found only in old Whiskies.

Taste: Tarry and woody, with some bitterness. Darkest chocolate, ashes and pretty sweet actually. It somehow has a dry top layer, with wood and ashes, tar and chocolate, but it’s not completely dry, since underneath there lies this bed of sweetness. Well balanced stuff. Again tar, ashes and coal. Great profile. I like that.

Well, this for sure became a cult Whisky overnight. The 6000 bottles sold out in something like three minutes. Lots of people bought cases of this. Rachel Barrie strrrrrrikes again 🙂 Let’s hope there will be a batch 2 and if so, it will be just as good albeit slightly different probably. Would I pay a silly 350 Euro’s for it as can be seen on Ebay, nope, I wouldn’t because for that kind of money there still are some old bottles of Bowmore to be had, that are equally great as this one is…

Bowmore is now definitly something to look out for (again)!

Points: 89

Bowmore Week – Day 3: Bowmore 10yo “Tempest” (55.3%, OB, Small Batch Release No. 1, First Fill Bourbon Casks, 12.000 bottles, 2009)

Bowmore WeekYes it’s time for peat! After the introduction to Bowmore by Bowmore themselves: The 12yo and the 14yo by indie bottlers Cadenhead, it is now time to pump up the volume! Here we have a 10yo by Bowmore themselves again, but this time with an ABV of 55.3%. This Bowmore Tempest was introduced in 2009 in their small batch range, that by now has seen four releases (one annually) of this Tempest made from First Fill Bourbon Cask that were laid down at the Vaults No.1, you know the warehouse were the waves are beating on the walls! Since there now are four releases of the Tempest, this first batch has become something of a cult Whisky, but not as “culty” as another recent small batch release by Bowmore: ‘The Devil’s Casks’, another 10yo, but this time matured in First Fill Sherry Casks (Oloroso Butts).

Bowmore Tempest Batch 1Color: Gold

Nose: Clean, woody profile. Cigarette smoke. Beautiful integrated cask toast. Quality and powerful stuff. As with the first two Bowmores from this Bowmore Week a slightly perfumy profile without the much feared FWP. But wait, there’s a lot more happening here. Custard, vanilla and crème brûlée (as stated on the back label). A small hint of warm tar and even later ashes. All this take over the initial sharpness of the dry oak and cigarette smoke.

Taste: Very sweet, ice-cream vanilla and again a wee bit of pepper and a great creamy, vanilla, crème brûlée finish. Small hints of (toasted) wood. This has a full and round body. Very nice Tempest indeed. It does fit the profile I “get” from the Cadenheads Small Batch 14yo, I reviewed yesterday though, so I think I understand where the Bourbon Bowmores are going these days. Nice stuff, likeable, easy and not too complex. Fruits, candied fruits. Apricots with vanilla yoghurt. Sour wood and a peppery finish.

This first batch became somewhat of a cult whisky. It’s really good. and therefore the 12.000 bottles are pretty much sold out. To this day four batches of this exist.

This looks like an annual thing. Since this is released in batches I really don’t understand the need for coloring, especially when all batches differ a bit in color, but still I believe all are colored. Bowmore is picking itself up. It surpassed the FWP-problem. Got the wonderful Rachel Barrie, who I believe is doing a great job at Bowmore (and some other distilleries).

Points: 87

Bowmore Week – Day 2: Bowmore 14yo 1998/2013 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, Bourbon Hogsheads, 792 bottles)

Here we are, into day two of Master Quill’s Bowmore Week. This review will be about a Bowmore from Cadenhead’s new Small batch series. Just like with the Original Series (46% ABV) and the Authentic Series (cask strength), the small batches come in at 46% or cask strength. The 46% versions in this new Small Batch Series come in this round dumpy bottle as depicted below, whereas the Cask strength versions come in more square dumpy bottles. Like Glenfarclas used a long time ago. The only difference between the Original and the Authentic Collection and the Small Batch bottling is that the latter is in almost all the cases a bottling of two casks where the former were single cask bottlings. This may be a golden opportunity for Cadenheads to mix two casks that can complement each other, where single cask bottlings will always show the flaws of that one cask. A year prior (2012), Cadenheads have already bottled two Bourbon Hogshead Bowmore’s in the Authentic Collection, which could be nice for comparison.

Cadenhead Bowmore 14yoColor: White Wine

Nose: Butter, cookie dough and flowery peat. A very feminine profile. It’s flowery and perfumy without it being FWP or soapy. Citrussy and very light on peat. Hints of (tarry) wood and salt. Fat light peat and licorice. Quite “simple” on the nose compared to yesterday’s standard 12yo. This one has to breathe a bit and needs a bit of warmth to fully release its aroma’s. The longer it stands the more smoky it gets, kippers. Coastal.

Taste: Very well integrated Bowmore. A sweet and very full body, yet not heavy and quite un-complex. Good sweetness. Hints of mocha and cappuccino. A nice peppery bite and citrus with custard. Lemon sherbet. Nice hints of wood. Extremely drinkable, but also quite simple. The pepper is an added bonus. The finish is not too long though, and the pepper stays with you longer than the finish does.

Where the nose needed a little time to show itself, the taste is immediately up front without a lot of evolution. But when its good from the start who needs evolution? Very nice and simple profile, but as I said before, not very complex, but immediately likeable and extremely drinkable. I do like it.

Points: 85

Bowmore Week – Day 1: Bowmore 12yo (40%, OB, Circa 2013)

Bowmore WeekYes this is the start of a new “Week” at Master Quill. This time it’s december and the weather is still pretty good for this time of year. Still the cold should be not too far away and I most definitely have an itch for something more peaty. Bowmore, as Caol Ila are known as the more medium peated Islay Whiskies, as opposed to Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig that have a more heavy hitting reputation, and Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain which are even lighter in peat than Bowmore is. Not to forgetting about Kilchoman (new) and Port Ellen (closed).

Bowmore itself had a little problem in the eighties and nineties with some of their Whiskies being called Badedas of heavily soapy, or even full of FWP (French Whore Perfume). I once had a Bowmore from 1989 that had so much of this it made me physically ill (on two different occasions when tasted blind). It made me ignore Bowmore for a long time (and the independent bottler that bottled the stuff as well…)

But after way more than a decade, and hearing Bowmore of late are very good it is time to have another go at Bowmore and look at some of their newer bottlings and maybe some old, who knows? Lets start the Bowmore Week with the newest version of the standard 12yo.

Bowmore 12yoColor: Full Gold.

Nose: Peaty, sweet and animalesk (smell it and you’ll know what I mean). Salty, smoky and vegetal. The peat gives off this typical coastal character. Burning off garden waste (not everything is dry), but also a clean wood fire. These two different kinds of fires coexist in this Bowmore! Hidden (sweet and aromatic) fruits come next, very nice! Little bit of toffee, vanilla and caramel. Fresh, sea air. But the whole is very elegant (for something from Islay). Not in your face. But Bowmore isn’t about heavy peating anyway. Cold tea. Good balance and quite complex, especially for such an entry-level Bowmore @ 40% ABV. Smell it for a while because not all is released at once.

Taste: Sweet, with lots licorice, peat, cardboard and black & white powder. Hints of vanilla ice-cream and wee bits of yellow and red fruits. Waxy, peppery and a funky kind of sugary sweetness underneath (ever so slightly too sugary sweet sometimes, but the fruity sweetness is good). Again an association with garden leaves, but this time just lying there (before being burned off). Very good Whisky. Alas, the palate can’t keep up with the more than excellent nose. To be taken in big gulps for maximum pleasure. Medium finish, but the aftertaste is very pleasant.

This is great Whisky, and has a lot of potential. I would have liked this very Whisky also being bottled at “the new export strength” of 46% ABV, I would be very curious how it would have turned out, also at cask strength it would be a blast. It smells fantastic, the taste is a wee bit simpler but still well made, very well made. It’s almost too good for an entry-level malt. It just is too watered down, which (alas) makes it an entry-level malt.

Points: 85