Bowmore Legend

bowmore_legendFor my first review on this blog I thought I would go with something relatively pedestrian. The Legend is the entry-level, no age stated (NAS) malt from the venerable Islay distillery of Bowmore. It is cheap and ubiquitous. The following review is from a large pour from a bottle I purchased myself, sampled before the bottle reached the halfway mark.

Bowmore Legend (40%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Not much happening; faint, minerally peat, a little bit of Bowmore’s trademark floral notes, and some over-ripe melon. Gets salty with time, with a slight hint of iodine.

Palate: A little too thin. Faint hints of charcoal, with a touch of fruit. Pretty much as advertised by the nose.

Finish: Nothing worth talking about.

Comments: Not a whole lot of there there, but you can’t really complain at the price. 43% would probably improve this reasonably but as it is it’s a decent, if simultaneously not very representative introduction to Bowmore—it does not feature in any intense manner the qualities that cause many on the internet to malign this great distillery; but you get enough of a hint of them to get a sense of how different the official profile is from that of its fellow storied distilleries on Islay, particularly the Kildalton malts (Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg). In fact, the only other Islay distillery whose whisky has even barely put me in mind of Bowmore is the new Kilchoman, whose young whisky too is (relatively) low on the punch of medicinal smoke, and has a floral quality on the nose and palate.

If you like this, you should move on to the Bowmore 12, which is a far more expansive whisky, and then on to the 15yo Darkest and the Tempest. (But if you don’t like this you shouldn’t conclude that Bowmore as a whole is not for you; try the 12yo first.) Independent bottlings of Bowmore of any decent quality are thin on the ground in the US, but AD Rattray have put out a couple that I really, really like: an 18yo single sherry cask from 1991, and a 20yo bourbon cask from 1990—more on these in future notes.

Rating: 78 points


6 thoughts on “Bowmore Legend

  1. I made my first bowmore the 12 year old. They were a bit heavy handed on the caramel, which i find takes away from the crispness of a whisky, if that makes any sense. I kind of liked this at first but after a few more glasses ive decided i dont really like it all that much. I wouldnt refuse a glass but if i do buy another bowmore it will be an IB.


  2. I think, on the whole, Bowmore is better served by indies than by their own bottlings. The one exception is the Tempest which holds its own against similarly priced indies. As for the 12 yo, I do like it–it’s the one entry-level peated Islay that’s very different from all the others and it’s a good change-up whisky for that reason.

    This was my first review, by the way (not that it was so long ago that we need to reminisce).


  3. I agree with you about it being different from all of the other islay malts and that in and of itself makes it desirable. I think it would be a lot better without the added coloring and heavy chill filtration, which you’ll only get, apparently, with IBs. I wish icould find a bottle of tempest, the last batch i think there were 2400 bottles shipped to the US. Not much hope there. I wouldnt waste the hundred and change for the 18 yr old based strictly on my experience with the 12 in case anyone from the management of bowmore is reading this and simultaneously cares.

    Just wanted to say nice work with the blog too Mao. You have a lot of interesting reading here since this first review. Like that you are shaking up the whisky blogging scene aswell, for those that have been getting a little too comfortable in their roles. Just watch out for those black helicopters…


  4. MAO, any plans to review the Bowmore Darkest 15 you mention? I bought a young IB, but I am also interested in a sherried Bowmore. I had the Darkest at a bar and thought it was decent, but haven’t had a chance to do an in-depth tasting or comparison. Thanks.


  5. I finished my last bottle of the Bowmore Darkest 15 more than two years ago. I started out not liking it, but about half of the way in it changed on me and I really liked it more and more and finished the bottle in a hurry. For whatever reason I haven’t replaced it. I think a friend in the area has a bottle though–I might try to cajole a sample out of her.

    I will say that if you can find the A.D. Rattray 18 yo from 1991 (sherry cask) anywhere you should buy it. It’s a fair bit more expensive than the Darkest but it’s great stuff.


    • Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to look for the 18yr 1991, but I do know of the 20yr 1991 from A.D. Rattray that it looks like you might be reviewing soon.


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