Another Bowmore from A.D. Rattray who seem to have a pipeline to a lot of excellent Bowmores from the early-mid 1990s. This is the period right after Bowmore’s notorious run in the 1980s, associated with soapy and perfumed notes. I’ve expressed my views about the nature of the talk around that period before and so will not repeat them here. I’ve also noted that none of the 1990s Rattray Bowmores I’ve had have been anything less than good, and I’ve had another sherry cask from 1991 (an 18 yo, cask 2075) that was excellent. As this seems like it must be from the same distillation run I’m hoping #2061 was as good a cask as #2075 was. Let’s get to it.
Bowmore 20, 1991 (56.2%; A.D. Rattray; sherry cask 2061; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Oh, very promising: tobacco and leather and then some lemon, orange peel and apricot jam. Then some ink and iodine and sea shells and the first clear signs of smoke (very mild and very far off in the distance). With time the sherry gets a little stickier (raisins, caramel, molasses) but the leather and maritime notes never go away. With water there’s more wood but also more salt (humid sea breeze).
Palate: Soft mouthfeel and highly drinkable at full strength. It’s on the palate that the smoke arrives, but mild here too, and it is almost as leathery and earthy as it is smoky. Where’s the fruit? And there’s none of the trademark lavender either. Gets quite salty on the tail end. With more time some fruit begins to emerge, and it’s the orange peel and apricot that were on the nose. Okay, it’s been almost an hour–time to add some water. Gets brighter and saltier with water but there’s also a lot more lemon and also some pepper. The mouthfeel gets more viscous/oily with a drop of water. Somehow it’s much more bourbon casky with water.
Finish: Long. Smokiest on the finish, along with some bitter chocolate and quite a lot of salt. The finish gets longer and brighter with water as the pepper and lemon really hang around and there’s more peat now too.
Comments: A very atypical Bowmore in that the tropical fruit and the lavender are really not there. But it’s very good. Quite reminiscent of those excellent 13 yo, 1995s I reviewed some time ago (from Single Malts of Scotland and the OB Maltmen’s Selection) but not quite as intense as either; however, the vibrancy with water is really very winning. Get a bottle today!
(For another view see Michael Kravitz’s take on Diving for Pearls. He got some soap and lavender and didn’t like it quite as much as I did.)
Rating: 89 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!