Bowmore 22, 1990 (Wilson & Morgan)

Bowmore 22, 1990 (Wilson & Morgan)
It’s been a while since I’ve had a good sherried Bowmore and I am hoping this may be one of them. It was distilled in 1990 (just at the edge of the danger zone). The last sherried 1990 I tasted was excellent (this one from A.D. Rattray) but that was full-term matured in a sherry cask, I believe; this is a PX finish (presumably of an ex-bourbon cask). As to how long the finishing period was, I have no idea. As for where the finish happened: from Wilson & Morgan’s website it appears that they’ve released a number of sherry finished malts and that they purchase their own sherry casks for the purpose (see here). Is this common among other independent bottlers who release finished whiskies as well? I would imagine many indies are not set up to do this sort of thing (unlike Wilson & Morgan or Murray McDavid who have/had wine business history)—if so, where do their finished casks come from? Are they leftovers from distilleries’ own special releases/experiments? If you know more about this phenomenon, please write in below. 

Returning specifically to Wilson & Morgan, I’m also not sure what “casks 3321-3350” refers to: did they really vat 30 casks together? That seems unlikely, especially as the Wilson & Morgan website notes an outturn of 479 bottles, which at 46.8% suggests a single butt: so is 3321-3350 an example of some arcane numbering system at use at Wilson & Morgan? That wouldn’t appear to be the case either as their other releases (finishes or otherwise) don’t follow it. Maybe it was two bourbon casks 3321 and 3350 that were vatted together for a PX finish? So many questions.

Bowmore 22, 1990 (46.8%; Wilson & Morgan; PX sherry finish; casks 3321-3350; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Heavy sherry (raisins, pencil lead, orange peel, dried mushrooms) but not much Bowmore (not at first, second or fifth sniff); very nice though. After a little while there’s some biscuity toffee but also leather, tobacco and stickier fruit (dates, figs). With a lot more time some wood smoke fights its way out but then the sharper, gunpowdery notes from the palate begin to emerge as well. Hmmm water pulls out more (and sharper) sulphur; more of the fruit too though.

Palate: More citrus than on the nose and more sweetness too—the richer, earthier notes are not as present. A little sharper on the second sip with some savoury gunpowder, and more salt and some beef stock too now (or is that soy sauce?). Then gets more and more simply sweet with each sip (brown sugar). Later, the sulphur begins to assert itself more strongly. Sharper still with water.

Finish: Medium-long. A lot of sweet pipe tobacco here and the earthy notes return, bringing with them, finally, some smoke. Gets saltier as it goes. Longer with water and earthier but also sharper.

Comments: This was very nice, on the whole, but the complexity promised by the nose didn’t quite arrive on the palate. I was hoping for a little more fruit there and could have used a little less of the gunpowder (though it wasn’t an off-note as such). If I had a full bottle of it (which wouldn’t make me unhappy) I’d drink it neat and probably alongside some really dark chocolate.

Rating: 86 points.

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