Bowmore 10, Devil’s Casks, 1st Ed.

Bowmore, Devil's Casks
This was released late last year to a fair bit of acclaim. I believe it is fetching ludicrous prices on the secondary market in Europe. In a conscious attempt to stop chasing every new “noisy” release I passed on a bottle—ditto with this year’s Ardbeg Supernova. It was a bit of a tough decision though as Bowmore is one of my favourites and good sherried Bowmore, in particular, is one of life’s great, and quite unique, pleasures. (See my reviews of some I’ve liked a lot: here, here and here). Courtesy a sample swap, however, I get to taste it anyway—hopefully, this will not lead to too much regret.

There’s a second edition out, by the way. Despite the frenzy that erupted around the first release, Bowmore has kept the price of the second edition the same—to their great credit. There are stories though of unscrupulous retailers in Europe marking it up dramatically or in some cases even selling bottles at auction. I wonder what the story will be when it gets to the US.

Bowmore Devil’s Casks, 1st Ed. (56.9%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Beef stock, leather, a hint of plum sauce and dried apricot. Gets saltier as it sits but then begins to get sweeter (plums) and also earthier. There’re hints of both soy sauce and cherry cola. After a while some citrus shows up—orange peel—and it gets kind of dusty as well. With a lot of time there’s some sharp, sulphury notes here as well (they showed up earlier on the palate); let’s see if water settles them down. Water pushes the sharpness back at first, bringing out some raisins, but here it is again, if not as insistent.

Palate: Very salty arrival but the Bowmore florals peep out momentarily from behind the salt as it transitions to the leathery, earthy notes present on the nose. On the second sip there’s more of the citrus that emerged later on the nose—closer to lemon here—and more of the sweeter notes (plum again). There’s smoke here but it’s mixed up with the leathery, earthy notes—not phenolic, particularly, more like smouldering, mossy wood. Starts to get a little sharper/more astringent as it sits…and then gets quite sharp. With water the palate is much better—the sharpness gets pushed back and instead there’s the raisins that showed up on the nose and light caramel.

Finish: Long. The smoke is most distinctive here, getting slightly tarry, and the salt hangs around as well. That late developing sharpness lingers in the finish as well, making my mouth feel a little furry. With water the sharpness turns to a menthol coolness

Comments: This started out well—especially on the nose—but ended badly: I subtracted quite a few points for the unattractive sulphur that started expanding at the end, before water salvaged the palate; and it wouldn’t surprise me if those notes expand as a bottle of this sits open (I didn’t find this to be as sweet as Sku noted in his review in January, and his bottle is where my sample came from six months later). Nothing worth getting into a frenzy about if your interests are in drinking rather than collecting/selling. Not a patch on the glorious 13 year olds I referred to above.

Rating: 86 points.

Thanks to Sku for the sample!

5 thoughts on “Bowmore 10, Devil’s Casks, 1st Ed.

  1. Really interesting post.

    I read both your and Sku’s original reviews of the Devil’s Cask 1 with great interest as I’ve been a fan of Bowmore since first trying the 12-year and 17-year olds in the late 1990’s. Several of their whiskies – the 17, 21 and 25 are (or were) among my favorites and Tempest is really good. Last year several blogs: Whisky Fun, K&L, The Whisky Jug all gave it rave reviews, so I was sad to see that both of you had serious reservations since I tend to enjoy Bowmore as a counterpoint to the Laphroaigs-Ardbegs-Lagavullins. I adore those distilleries too, but see them as very particular, different animals. Given Bowmore’s past association with Jim McEwan, the distillery seems a bit more like his current gig with Bruichladdich – putting out wide variety of bottlings with unusual finishes and abv.’s – and also like Bruichladdich, their bottlings can range from amazing to not so much with a lot of variation out there.

    Which brings me back to the DC1…I had a chance to try some at Jack Roses in DC and found a lot to like – the classic Bowmore flavor, chocolate, sherry – but one aspect I really, really didn’t like…the burnt rubber, dying vacuum flavor I associate with Balcones Brimstone 1 – a whisky I despise despite wanting to love it. A few weeks later I tried it again and liked it more, but by then the bottle was almost out and Jack Rose’s hasn’t had it since. As a Bowmore fan, I found it almost impossible to make sense of it – loved aspects of it – but agree it isn’t all good – and couldn’t stop thinking about it either.

    Then, a few weeks ago, I found a bottle of the Devil’s Cask 1 half hidden at a local store with the occasional dusty, and given that it’s essentially sold out worldwide and commanding car payments in Germany, couldn’t resist grabbing it despite all our reservations. Having lived with the bottle now for a couple of weeks, I find I like it some days, not so much others, but can’t remember such an odd mix of some great mixed with not so great. Other whiskies I’d put into that category? Corsair Triple Smoke, Angel’s Envy Rye and late bottles of Ancient Ancient Age 10-year.

    So yesterday I tried something.

    I like blending my own whiskies and also casking my own cocktails – combining Weller 12 & Weller Antique 107…shots of Lagavullin to White Horse…shots of Talisker to Johnnie Walker – so I began adding the Devil’s Cask 1 to Bowmore Legend (1:4 ratio) and next week will begin adding it to the 12-year. I have to say, that Frankenbowmore is fantastic. Where Legend is a simple cheap Islay I drink over ice, it’s the perfect medium to balance out the crazier aspects of the Devil’s Cask whose smokier, denser flavors now make a lot more sense…I like the nose a lot more too and the color is more natural given the Devil’s Cask is as clearly tinted as your average TV personality’s hair.

    I’m not trying to oversell here, but the DC1-Legend blend is great – it has the intensity of a Lagavullin or Ardbeg, but it still tastes like Bowmore or maybe, a more unique version of the Peat Monster. Years ago, Bowmore had a Cask Strength that I really loved and this is very similar though with more chocolate and sherry. Now I want to try (and maybe blend) Devil’s Cask 2.

    If you can, try this…judging from Sku’s review – it sounds like there’s still about half a bottle left.

    Really enjoy your blog,



  2. Thanks for the comment—I’ve been meaning to reply/acknowledge but have had a very busy start to the week. Let me say first of all that I gave the Devil’s Cask 86 points, which I would not describe as translating as “serious reservations”. (By contrast I gave the Balcones Brimstone 65 points.) I thought this had the potential to be great—that’s where I thought it was heading as I poured it into the glass—but then the sharper notes (which I’m identifying, perhaps inaccurately, as the type of sulphur I don’t like) arose and ruined the backend for me. Water fixed some of that.

    But I really like the notion of using the Legend to mellow out the flaws of the Devil’s Cask—even if just the thought of it would give the vapours to the people making mortgage payments for it in Europe. I’m a big proponent of home blending/vatting. As I’ve said before, almost any whisky you don’t care for can be salvaged, or at least made into an interesting experiment by blending it. I can never understand why people pour whiskies they don’t like down the drain as first resort.


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