This Bowmore 16 was one of K&L’s cask selections for 2013 that was delayed and finally arrived in early 2014. It’s been the subject of some mixed reviews since, with at least one prominent (ex?)blogger recording very less than enthused notes on it while the purveyor reports that many customers like it a lot (see the comments on Tim’s post). Me, I’ve not had any bad mid-1990s Bowmores, especially from sherry casks and so I was not overly bummed to read Tim’s pan. Bowmore can be an idiosyncratic spirit and there are other bottles, official and indie, from the distillery that I seem to like a lot more than many others.
Accordingly, I opened the bottle for our local group’s tasting in June and the response was all over the map. A few in the group had it as their top whisky of the night, a few had it at the bottom, and most had it somewhere in the middle (we drink one ounce each of four whiskies). Personally, I liked the nose and thought it was otherwise pedestrian but not objectionable. The bottle went to the halfway mark that night and I haven’t tried it since. Let’s see what I make of it now.
Bowmore 16, 1996 (52%; refill sherry barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: Mix of raisins and a slight rubbery note (pencil eraser). Some lime as well along with a very faintly butyric note. The lime expands after a bit. There’s a bit of buttery vanilla as well and after a couple of minutes some smoke (more dry and minerally than phenolic) begins to emerge along with some graphite (pencil lead), some brine and a sour note. With more time the sour note expands and begins to dominate proceedings. Water emphasizes the sour notes.
Palate: The butyric note is more pronounced on the palate leading into a fair bit of citrus (lime juice and some orange peel) followed by quite a bit more smoke than was promised by the nose (though it’s not very smoky per se). On the second sip the citrus is now far more orangey than limey and the raisins are here too now. The smoke gets more acidic/sharper with time and those rubbery and sour notes from the nose shows up too. Water emphasizes the more acrid smoke and rubber.
Finish: Medium-long. The smoke, getting more ashy, hangs around a while and so does the citrus. More salt as it goes. Alas, as with the nose and palate the sharp sourness comes to the fore with time and makes my tongue feel all “furry”.
Comments: This is not very characteristically Bowmore at all. And it changed on me. I liked it more when first poured but as it sat it got more and more sour both on the nose and palate. Indeed, I tasted it on three separate occasions to be sure and each time the off notes showed up quicker. There is definitely some sulphur action happening here of a not-so good type and it throws the balance off. A pity as there’s a much nicer whisky in here somewhere. Still, it’s drinkable enough and I may have liked it more than Tim did—at least, I didn’t pour any of it down the sink.
Rating: 79 points.