This Bowmore 1994 concludes my mini-run of reviews of (mostly) teenaged Bowmores from (mostly) the mid-1990s. This is from Berry Bros. & Rudd and was bottled in 2008–so it is either 13 or 14 years old. While the label did not specify (not that I recall), this is from a bourbon cask.
It was fun to review five Bowmores in a row. The two sherried ones from 1995 had very little smoke in them and very little of the Bowmore flowers and may well have been from a different distillery than the one that produced the bourbon cask matured Tempest and the Whiskybroker 14 yo. I am tempted to ask rhetorically if this bottle will split the difference, and present a bourbon cask Bowmore with mild smoke and floral notes; however, as this is from a bottle I finished some time ago I already know the answer (it is “no”)–this review too is of a pour from a 6 oz reference sample saved when the bottle had reached the halfway mark. And so, let’s get right to it:
Bowmore 1994-2008 (56.3%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, cask 1681; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Acidic fruit and ash, lots of ash. A huge squeeze of lime, lots of salt, some ozone. After a bit the salt turns more fully coastal, with kelp and a little oyster liquor. There’s some sweeter, muskier fruit lurking under the surface too now, and there’s a hint of the Bowmore flowers–otherwise, this is almost in Caol Ila/Laphroaig territory. After more time, however, the trademark lavender is clearly present (though in the company of a truckload of salt and minerally peat). With even more time the lime comes back, this time in the form of citronella. With a drop of water the sweeter fruit (I’m having trouble identifying it) and the flowers perk up a little and there’s now also something of a sweet glaze on a ham (not the ham itself though). With a little more time it gets a little more organic (or maybe it’s the kelp again).
Palate: Sweet peat and soot at first, but as I swallow it turns to sweet fruit with tingling lime shooting through it. Salt here too, but not the flowers. Very drinkable at full strength; let’s see what water does. Aha! With the water the fruit does get more tropical (melon, hint of banana) and expressive and brings out a slightly creamy note. The lime and salt are still there. The peat and soot that made the first impression are still around in the background but you have to work to notice them now.
Finish: Long, ashy, citrussy. And, of course, salty. Water dials back the ash a tad. The citrus gets a little fermented.
Comments: This is a sharp, assertive Bowmore. With the proper training you could slice heads off with it. Not quite as floral/fruity as either the Tempest or the Whiskybroker 14 but very quintessentially Bowmore, nonetheless; and certainly the smokiest/ashiest of the five reviewed in this run. I rate the Dewar Rattray 1990 20 yo (cask 271) higher because it adds a lot more tropical fruit to the smoky/citrussy/minerally profile in evidence here, but this is very good stuff; I wish I’d bought a second bottle.
Rating: 88 points.