Bowmore 15yo 1996/2011 (57.3%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Sherry Finish, Butt # 960005)

I don’t know why, but every time I saw this bottle on a shelf, (when it was still readily available), I just wanted it. Which is quite strange. I’m not the world’s biggest Bowmore’s fan. Bowmores from yesteryear surely yes, but more modern Bowmore’s somewhat less so than other Islay distillates. Maybe this has something to do with Bowmore’s FWP*-problem from the eighties? Who knows. But why did I want this one? 15yo sounds nice, Bowmore, definitely not so bad, Sherry, yes, finished, what?… but why not? Wilson & Morgan and Sherried bottlings (Macallan, Mortlach, yes pretty damn good!) And last but for me certainly not least, I have always been a sucker for green glass bottles. Dark Whisky just looks fantastic to me through green glass. I even hosted a large Whisky tasting once, you guessed it, only with Whiskies bottled in green glass.

So, I always felt, more likely assumed, (the mother of all fuckups), but there is some educated guessing involved here, this would be a good one. Excuse me for this unnecessary complex sentence. Right after getting one of these Bowmores, I found another discounted one, so I snapped that one up as well, just in case. Better safe than sorry ‘eh? As most anoraks/aficionados/connoisseurs already know, Wilson & Morgan is an Italian private bottler, led by the über-Italian Fabio Rossi, who seems to prefer to focus more on bottling Rums lately, and doing a great job there as well. I already reviewed some Rums bottled by Fabio’s Rum brand; Rum Nation, as well as Whiskies from his Wilson & Morgan range. Ohhhh that Mortlach, nom, nom…

Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Perfect peat and smoke. Syrupy Sherry. Spicy chilli pepper powder. Vanilla and boiling vegetable water. Hot motor oil, licorice, tar and a faint whiff of plastic and latex paint, all adding to the complexity. Raspberry jam. What an amazing smelling Malt. The label states this as a Sherry Finish. Often Oloroso comes to mind, but in this case it reminds me more of PX, not claiming this really came from a PX cask though. Leafy, vegetal. Fresh air in between the peat and the smoke with some hidden vanilla underneath. Excellent wood spice, and fresh oak vanilla. Soft, creamy and lovely. Cigarette ashes from an ashtray. Licorice and some minty black and white powder. The Sherry finish brought a lot to this Malt without overpowering it. It is still an Islay Malt, with this added bonus to it. Wonderful work Fabio. I wonder how the original Malt was before it was finished to see what this finish exactly did. I guess we will never know. The smoky and ashy industrial feel wears off a bit over time, exposing some burnt newspaper, sinaspril and chlorine as well as the vanillin of American oak. Excellent balance throughout the nose. Dark cherries on syrup and a tiny whiff of the oil from orange skins and warm mineral oil as well. It’s just the orange skin oil, but it isn’t very orange-y. Some cigarette smoke as well as some more tar at this point. Black tea and leafy with hints of smoked kippers and some clay. Quite a complex Malt, changing directions several times, yet always well balanced. When Bowmore gets is right it can really hit it out of the ballpark.

Taste: Ahhh, wonderful, strong and prickly peated plastic and smoked rubber on entry. Gravy and lots of (tarry) red fruits. Black fruits and ripe strawberry. Sweetish at first, turning dry. Black coal, steam and tarry with rubbery cherry syrup. Bitter licorice. Laurel licorice. Unlit cigarette. It really does taste thick. Quite some wood but never really bitter, the wee bitter note here comes from the smoke. It’s dry and smoky throughout and quite fruity as well. Ashy. If this wasn’t peaty and smoky and spicy, it would have been a lemonade. I’m sure, part of the smoky notes come from the Sherry cask and not the Whisky alone. On the palate it may not be as wonderfully complex as the nose, but at this point, who cares, this is such an outstanding Malt. Wonderful. Quite a dry aftertaste, waxy and woody with the plastics and the peat, the medium waxy bitterness has the longest breath.

This one right after Tamdhu Dalbeally No. 3 is simply stunning, Dalbeally brings out the best out of this one, coal, machines etc. Man, when Bowmore is great it is truly stunning. Never thought a Bowmore from the nineties could be so great. If I had tasted this blind, I would have guessed this was an older Bowmore, probably from the seventies costing a lot more than this one did me.

Points: 92

*French Whore Perfume

Caol Ila 1991/2000 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

This Caol Ila is one I just cracked open, literally. It is an oldie I bought some 15 years ago. Sure it is a reduced independent bottling, and it didn’t cost much, but its a Caol Ila and its bottled by Wilson & Morgan, who have bottled a lot of good Caol Ila’s, just have a look at this 24yo expression distilled in 1975, to name but one. The cork broke on this one. This time it didn’t only just break off, it seemed to disintegrate completely. Vaporized into thin air, so to speak. Luckily most of the crumbs were easy to fish out of the bottle and hardly anything sank to the bottom. Just a few weeks ago I wrote an ode to the screw cap, now you know why… Karma strikes again.

Caol Ila 1991/2000 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Ahhh, right after pouring the room filled with the smell of beautiful peat. Nothing harsh and rough, but smooth and refined. Nice, clean and soft and aromatic peat. Helped along with a citrussy fruitiness. Well-balanced and much nicer to smell than the Kilchoman Spring I reviewed (much) earlier. Smells quite sweet. Leafy and chewy. Dry vanilla powder, maybe even some powdered coffee-creamer. Some hidden tar, but also an expansion on the fruits. We have hints of sweet, ripe pineapple, mango and banana, mixed with vanilla from the wood, and the wood itself somehow didn’t make it. Crushed beetle and some distant dried basil in the background. Remarkable. Ohhh yes, and some bonfire smoke. I nearly forgot to write that down! I have to say it again, well-balanced stuff and remember, this isn’t even ten years old, which today has become standard.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Sugar water. Syrup. Very fruity and a little hoppy bitterness. Big and chewy. Sweet, funky and nutty peat. Not at all earthy. Nice touch of smoke, but not much. It’s like all the aromas are fighting over front row seats. As mentioned, there is a lot of sweetness, that exerts itself right from the start, but these is a lot of fruitiness as well. The Whisky is also nuts. I mean, full of nuttiness. All big and all upfront. I always get some coffee in good Caol Ila’s, and this time is no exception. Sweet coffee, with a tad of toffee in the coffee. It’s not stong black coffee but rather a sweet Cappuccino or Latte Macchiato. Underneath a nice, herbal and lightly bitter undertone (from oak). Long finish and similar aftertaste. Leaves me behind with salty lips. Good Whisky! I hope todays young Caol Ila’s are just as good and affordable.

Ohhh these were the days, where young Whisky seemed better than it is these days, or maybe I’m biased.  This is a very tasty Caol Ila, not overly complex and one I’ll come back to again and again. This will not take years to empty, which it usually takes me, since there are lots of open bottles around the place…

Today there is much ado about young Whiskies, especially NAS Whiskies. It seems NAS isn’t really accepted by everybody. It sometimes is viewed as a devilish plan selling us inferior and immature Whisky (sometimes at a premium price). On the other hand, when distilleries and independent bottlers alike, just mention an age statement of a young whisky there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore, since you know what you’re getting. Just look at the recently released Lagavulin 8yo and compare that to the plethora of NAS Taliskers (also owned by Diageo) and NAS Laphroaigs (not owned by Diageo), which seem to be under par and the fantasy names do not help the acceptance process of the (educated) public, or those who have seen different times buying Single Malt Whiskies.

For the fun of it, let’s compare this “9yo” Caol Ila to the NAS Talisker ‘Neist Point’. Smelling the Talisker after the Caol Ila, it is remarkable how much the Talisker smells of grainy immature Whisky and even shows some whiffs of new make! Much more than when smelled by itself alone. Although having new make in the mix is illegal, since Whisky must be at least 3 years old, there must be a big component of very young Whisky in the Talisker. The Caol Ila behaves like a 9yo, nice, well made, good cask, but lacking some of the complexity often brought to a Whisky by extensive maturation. In the taste it is noticeable that the Talisker has some more happening than just the new make, and young Whisky, alone. Thank God almighty. The Talisker needs some air to get the new make out, after that it is not bad, not bad at all. Sweet as well and buttery. The taste of the Talisker grows on you, even though the new make never really leaves the scene. A draw, or is it? Considering the amount of money Diageo wants for the Talisker (in some markets), the jury made a unanimous decision in favour of the Caol Ila. [sound of judge’s hammer on wood]

Points: 85

Glenrothes 1990/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Sherry Wood)

Time for an “oldie” Wow, I’m now calling a Whisky from 1990 an “oldie”, unbelievable how time flies. Here we have another Glenrothes. For one reason or another I seem to like independently released Glenrothes better than the official bottlings. Maybe the independents release their versions at a higher strength than the 43% ABV the owners themselves do. One thing is sure, besides that it needs to be at a higher strength, it is a distillate that need maturation in a Sherry cask, just like Macallan did. Do you still remember Sherried Macallans? Anyone?

Glenrothes 1990/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Sherry Wood)Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Lots of raisins. Soft creamy wood. Floral and slightly acidic Wine-attack. Linen. Nicely Sherried, waxy with dry powder. Earwax, coal and slightly tarry. Hint of dried out orange skin. Dusty attic (old home) and even a tiny hint of a dry rotting sensation, motor oil and vanilla. Whiffs of old woody Rum.

Taste: Creamy and rounded out. Big Sherried nose, but taste-wise not so heavy. Wood and a fruity acidity I sometimes get from PX-Sherry somehow don’t match perfectly. Does have a burning alcohol and warming sensation and a finish that lingers on for a while (raisins, honey and cask toast), but has no big staying power, medium I would say. It’s nice but it also seems to be telling it didn’t want the water. Maybe this would have been better without reduction, who knows? Nice, not very complex and not the heavy hitter I expected.

Well, this is bottled quite some time ago and in its day this was pretty affordable. Today Sherried bottlings that have no mayor flaws, like sulphur which many aficionado’s do not like, cost a pretty penny. This Glenrothes is big and small at the same time. Yes its heavily Sherried, but no it’s not a heavy hitter. It’s not brown, but orange. I really like the melancholy of it all. It reminds me of summer, dry and dusty, with aroma’s of old wood and furniture. In an attic isolated from sound with whiffs of flowers from outside. It may not be perfect nor very complex, but is it nice and highly drinkable. Has an old feel to it, as opposed to todays (sometimes sulphury) Sherry bottlings. “Lovely” would sum it up nicely.

Points: 86

Caol Ila 24yo 1975/2000 (54.3%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Millenium, Cask #2981, 259 bottles)

Even though it’s supposed to be summer, looking outside you could have convinced me of something different. I see people outside wearing coats and jackets. Yesterday I reviewed an Islay malt, Bruichladdich to be precise, and it didn’t taste too bad on these cold summer nights. So why not try another one. This time one by Italian independent bottler Wilson & Morgan, or Fabio for his friends. Earlier I reviewed a young Mortlach that Fabio bottled, that turned out to be pretty damn good! Let’s see if this Caol Ila is something down similar lines.

Color: Gold

Nose: Nice subdued elegant peat combined with fresh succulent grass. A really held back Islay. Apples and nice malty flavours. Nice old fat clay and bonfire smoke. Salty, absolutely very wow this is! Some powdery dryness and wet wood. Wet earth with a hint of some undefined sour fruit and dried meat. There is definitively some rain in this. What? Rain. I love Islay whiskies that smell like this.

Taste: Thinner than I had expected. Sweet with apple flavoured coffee. Grassy peat again. Cardboard and wet hay. The sweetness fits the fatty peat and is cloying. It’s a strange kind of sweetness. Again, the nose exactly fits the taste here. Salty lips. The finish doesn’t seem to have a lot of staying power.

Although its heritage is pretty obvious, for me it’s not a typical Caol Ila. Maybe I’m more used to Caol Ila’s from 1979 through 1984, so this could be typical for a Caol Ila from just after the rebuild. We’ll see. Still a very interesting dram. I know, usually that doesn’t sound good, interesting, but here it is used in a positive way, so this scores…

Points: 89

Mortlach 10yo 1989/2000 (57.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

…and here is my second entry for our Genietschap gathering. Yesterday I reviewed an older expression of the ‘standard’ 16yo Flora and Fauna, and that was pretty good!

This Wilson & Morgan bottle was the opener of the day. Chosen for that reason because it was the youngest one.

Color: Copper Brown.

Nose: Yeah Baby! Heavy thick Sherry, meaty, but without the harshness and without the Sulphur! What a character and that at only 10yo. Raisins. Tarry and dry. Nice and you can even call this fresh and perfumy.

Taste: oh yeah (again!). Dry Sherry (at first) with tar and coal, than sweeter with a peppery attack. The coal, fabulous, just an old steam locomotive in here, and warm asphalt. Again there is nothing off here, not much wood, no sulphur and not harsh.

Very nice play between a sour and sweet note in the finish (amongst others some orange peel). It’s not only very good, but very interesting as well.

Would I have known it then, this would have been bought by the case! I’ll do something bold here, and score this young one at least…

Points: 90