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.
Wow, look at that nice em dash!
So do you order from K&L pretty frequently? I’ve thought about doing that for my next big splurge to get some of their exclusive stuff like the “island malt” (assuming it’s still available). You’re in Minnesota, right? I’m near Madison. I did a big (for me) mail order from Binny’s once and thought it worked out great: I like their selection, the delivery was fast, the charges were significant but reasonable. I have the impression that K&L is equally good. Do you think so?
Glad you liked it more than I did. It was a real disappointment, especially when compared to Palm Tree which was fantastic.
Ex? Who knows. Certainly some time away….
I don’t know that I liked it very much more than you did.
You said it yourself in your last line: “I didn’t pour any of it down the sink”. QED
I do find ex-bourbon teenage bowmores a whole lot better than their sherried counterparts. So I purchased the palm tree and found it amazing while I totally ignored this sherried offering from K&L. Kinda glad I did…
This bottle is approaching its last legs—less than a quarter left now—and I’m surprised to note that it’s improved a decent amount. The sharp notes are not quite as much in evidence and the butyric thing is gone too. It’s still not anything great but it’s drinkable enough now. Tonight I’d probably give it 81 points. Still, I don’t know that the improvement is enough to keep me from vatting the rest of this away.
Edited 10 minutes later to add: Oh wait, spoke too soon: there’s the sulphur again….
That’s interesting. I didn’t notice those notes in my bottle. I noticed a lot of Bowmore oiliness in the mouthfeel, a lot of dark red fruits and smoked clove, like Djarms (spelling?) on the palate and more of those phenolic notes tat you get in like a Kilchoman. I certainly didn’t see the age in this though. I didn’t find it to be super complex. I get the sourness that you are talking about but 79 and 81 seem really low. I’d be in the 84 range but not super stellar about it.
One of the things that bothers me about KL Wines is that they really “Sell” there bottles as being ALL TIME….each one. And then you drop good money on them to end up dissappointed because it’s not as good as they made it out to be. Perfect example of that is the new 1990 KL Exclusive Glenfarclas. It tastes a lot like NyQuil as opposed to a solid Sherried Malt. I much prefer the 19yo Glendronach that they bottled ober that one any day yet the staffers at KL rave over it as the best bottle on the shelf for the $$. I dunno….I hate being sold.
Your notes sound more like what I found when I first opened the bottle—as I noted, it changed on me. Did you drink yours down much faster? Alas, I can’t go back and check on what the bottle’s like now because I blended most of the second half of it away. The resulting blend was very good, by the way, as Florin (who got a sample of it not knowing what it was) will tell you.
And yeah, I’m not buying as much from K&L as I used to. There are so few independent reviews of their whiskies out there and I’m less willing than I ever was to be swayed by David D’s enthusiasm (and seemingly good prices for their private casks): the 2013 private releases didn’t really do it for me on the whole.
I’ll leave my impressions without reading yours at first.
This was a strange Bowmore. Quirky – not in a good way – but not the worst Bowmore I had, maybe not in the bottom three either.
Nose: A little hot, but quite interesting! Some mineral peat (par for the course), some sherry but not overpowering like a standard Bowmore 12yo – probably refill sherry. The age shows in the nice bitter gentian notes. This is surprising, since I associate this with older whiskies (>20 yo), and I thought this was a 16yo single cask! Floral aromas, pleasant, not rampant. The nose was quite nice!
Palate: This is going downhill now. Besides what I found in the nose there is a strange sour flavor: dentist’s office, bar bathroom on Sunday morning. It doesn’t ruin it completely, but it takes it out of contention for whisky of the year (or of the night). The sweet, mineral, and bitter mix is enjoyable, and would be much nicer without the sour garbagey stuff. (And I love a garbagey whisky, as much or more than the next guy!)
I don’t remember if I liked it more, or less, with water.
On the whole: recognizable Bowmore, it aged nicely, but there was something off about the cask. Not as bad as the Exclusive Malts Bowmore 11yo 2002 for K&L or, God forbid, a FWP ’80’s Bowmore. I don’t regret skipping it. 2.5* in my book.
Checking your notes, it seems that we are in sync. I also agree that you did a good job blending the remainder, the “?” blend you sent me was quite enjoyable, more so than this original. It seems that the blending showcased the good side of the sour stuff, maybe balancing it out with some unpeated whisky. Let’s see what I wrote to you about that blend – here it is. I can’t believe I suggest that the blender (you) “knows what they are doing”!
“I’m not sure what it is quite yet, but I definitely enjoyed the guessing! It’s peaty, obviously, and it’s not Laphroaig (no ashtrays in sight). For a while I thought it might be Ballechin, but tasted side-by-side it’s much more delicate than that bruiser. (If it’s Ballechin then it spent years in an open bottle; my half-bottle of Madeira Ballechin shows no signs of backing down after two months in the open.) The peat has dry salt (not brine, not iodine) and minerals, but it’s not quite maritime. Occasionally I thought it’s more burned wood than peat smoke, indicating a mainland rather than Islay peat. It’s very good, for sure, so it’s not a one-off experiment, it’s from someone who definitely knows what they are doing. Good, comfortable strength – 46% most likely, could be higher, but not 50%. As I type this I realize Peat Monster X is a prime candidate! Medium age – 8-12 years, with 6-15 as a confidence interval. The mineral taste lead me to think Bowmore. Not enough lemons & olives to make it Caol Ila – but I will check. I’m also considering some wild cards – Ardmore, Benriach, Hakushu, Armorik. Initially I included McCarthy, due to the round, sweet, balanced profile, but I didn’t recognize some of their weird/new wood flavors.”