Bowmore 1996, “Wanted: The Smallest Whisky Shop on Four Wheels” (Jack Wieber)

BowmoreI referred to this bottle a few weeks ago as bearing perhaps the most whimsical design in Jack Wieber’s “Wanted” series of Bowmores. (Click here for full effect). While the label only notes the distillation year of 1996, an email to the bottlers yielded a very quick clarifying response that it was bottled in 2012 (making it either 15 or 16 years old). Alas, a follow-up email asking for a little more information on the series received no response–but I’m sure they have more important things to do than respond to idiot bloggers.

Bowmore 1996-2012, “Wanted: The Smallest Whisky Shop on Four Wheels” (53.3%; Jack Wieber’s Whisky World, bourbon cask; from a purchased sample.)

Nose: Ah, classic Bowmore flowers with a nice buttery, vanilla topping. And now here comes the sweet peat and brine (like sweet sea urchin), getting minerally and acidic (though not very). Really quite buttery and unctuous. With time the butteriness recedes and is replaced by ozone and something a little more acidic. Water brings out some lemon and brings back the butter/cream: let’s say lemon curd.

Palate: Minerally and stony at first and then there’s the lavender and the tropical fruit followed by a mild ashy peat. Soft texture. Lovely stuff. On the second sip there’s a little more acid and a little more bitterness after the fruit. Totally, utterly drinkable at full strength. With time the tropical fruit takes center stage and there’s a touch of pepper as well. The peat frames it all. Okay, this doesn’t need water but let’s see what water does: as on the nose, water draws out a lime/lemon note and there’s more sweetness on the palate too.

Finish: Long, stony/minerally and fruity, getting fruitier with every sip. Water adds some acid and lengthens the finish even more. And long after the last swallow there’s a very nice ashiness on my palate.

Comments: This is classic bourbon cask Bowmore. For some reason a lot of whisky geeks persist in ignoring/slighting Bowmore but the distillate from the 1990s is unimpeachable. Okay, if you don’t like the lavender/muscatel note you’re not going to like it but that preference aside there’s not a thing wrong with it, and there’s so much that’s unique about it. In an increasingly cookie-cutter Scotch world don’t we want to celebrate a distillery that has a profile so utterly its own? Not a bargain, but I might have to think about a full bottle.

Rating: 88 points.

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