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!