I continue my daring exploration of Bowmores from the fringes of their dangerous period with this 15 yo from 1990. Will this provide further support for my hypothesis that the problems at Bowmore had largely cleared up as early as 1990? Let’s see (and please keep in mind that my experience of this period is very limited compared to most geeks).
This is the last of three James MacArthur bottles split with Michael K. and Florin (who, as you may recall, is the sheriff of a small community in the Inland Empire and the author of such novels as Gravity’s Rainbow and The Crying of Lot 49). This review is also being simulposted with Michael’s at Diving for Pearls. [And here now is the link to Michael’s review.]
Bowmore 15, 1990 (51.1%; James Macarthur; cask 1168; from a bottle split with friends)
Nose: Clean, slightly minerally peat at first, then some acidic smoke. With more time and air the smoke intensifies a bit and there’s some pepper and then expanding fruit: ripe melon, grapefruit, some lime and also some hints of mango. Very nice. With a lot of time and air there’s some salt and also a faint soapiness. With water the lime expands but there’s also a buttery/vanilla note.
Palate: Ashy smoke first and then all that fruit from the nose hits, the lime first, the sweeter stuff close on its heels. Some salt follows. The texture is a little thin. Hmmm with time the soapiness that earlier emerged on the finish seems to show up a little earlier. Let’s see what water does: well, it does push the soapy thing back and brings out more of the ash and the sweeter, more tropical fruit. Wait, with more time the soap comes back again.
Finish: Medium-long. Smoky, fruity, salty. The floral/muscatel notes reminiscent of Darjeeling tea that I often find in Bowmore show up here. There’s a mild soapy bitterness that develops late but it’s not particularly off-putting. With water the smoke turns ashy and hangs around a while.
Comments: Patrick, who occasionally comments here, tipped me off about this bottle and said his initial take on it was “cask strength Bowmore 12”. He’s not off, but there’s far more fruit here than in the 12. I liked it a lot at first despite the lack of intensity on the palate and the general lack of development, but I wish the soapiness had stayed as muted as it was at first. Still, it’s not off-puttingly soapy neat (you might not notice it at all if you drink it at a rapid clip) and water does mostly fix it. You have to fiddle to get the water just right though–it needs more than a few drops.
Rating: 83 points. (At various points over the course of drinking it it fluctuates between 80 and 86 points.)