Bowmore 1999, “Wanted: The Question Mark Man” (Jack Wieber)

BowmoreJack Wieber’s Whisky World is yet another German store/independent bottler with a strong reputation for cask selection. Most of their releases seem to be in series–the Old Train Line series, which features some very old whiskies, is very well-known, as is the Castles series. Both of these series have classy labels with a vintage feel (go ahead, look them up on Whiskybase). Their Wanted series, however, which only seems to include bottlings of Bowmore from the late 80s on, adds wackiness to the vintage feel. The labels feature Old West style Wanted poster art and the whiskies have names like “The Loving Brothers”, “The Dead Mouse Eater” (apparently a reference to Serge Valentin), “The Question Mark Man” (which I am reviewing today), and most whimsical of all, “The Smallest Whisky Shop on Four Wheels” (which I will be reviewing in a few days).

While I’m opposed to wackiness for its own sake in every area of life, Jack Wieber’s usually pulls it off with style; and as long as the whisky is good, it’s nice to see bottlers who don’t take themselves too seriously. Too many other independent bottlers choose to go in the opposite direction of a “premium” look and tone, and I find that more tedious (not to mention, usually more expensive).

Bowmore 1999, “Wanted: The Question Mark Man” (48.4%, Jack Wieber’s Whisky World, refill sherry cask. From my own bottle.

The label actually describes this as being from a “refile” sherry cask, but I assume that’s an error. I’m not sure when this was bottled.

Nose: Quite peaty, and at first it’s a rather farmy/”dirty” peat, more organic than medicinal. With time, however, the farmy note recedes a bit and there’s quite a lot of fruit (oranges of some kind, melon, maybe a bit of peach), and something buttery/creamy as well as more of a minerally, coastal quality (kelp, shells, some brine). The farmy notes never quite go away though. With more time, the Bowmore lavender emerges but there’s not a whole lot of it. A few drops of water bring out some acid and fruit (lime) and more salt.

Palate: More smoke and tar on the palate than peat, and quite a lot of it for a Bowmore. The trademark florals are not much in evidence here. On the second sip there’s some of the farmy peat from the nose and quite a lot of dry, ashy smoke. More medicinal/iodine notes on the palate than on the nose. There’s some fruit under there too, but it’s not getting to talk. Maybe water will make some room for it. No, the chief difference with water is that it gets sharper and saltier; the fruitiness does emerge but it’s rather indistinct (a little acidic, a little sweet). With even more time the fruit becomes more tropical and more prominent and the buttery/creamy note from the nose shows up as well.

Finish: Long. Tarry at first and then ashy and a little salty. Well after the swallow the ghosts of the floral/fruity notes I expected to be front and center appear on the sides of my palate. A lot saltier with water.

Comments: In general, it’s as though Bowmore decided to play the traditionally heavily-peated Islays at their own game. Not much sign of the sherry cask here. Or, to be more accurate, while there’s not much sherry character per se, it’s quite different from ex-bourbon Bowmores of similar age/general era. There’s not as much of the minerally/acidic fruit quality here that I got on the Berry Bros. & Rudd 14, 1994, for example. And I would have liked more of the flowers and fruit on the palate (though I am probably in the minority here). But there’s not much wrong with this one on its own merits.

Rating: 87 points.

One thought on “Bowmore 1999, “Wanted: The Question Mark Man” (Jack Wieber)

  1. More than a year later the Bowmore florals are to the fore on the nose and the peat is pushed back. Still quite smoky on the palate though but now fruit and flowers and buttery vanilla are very obviously present. Seems like quite a different whisky tonight than it was when I reviewed it.

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