Here is a Bowmore from the late 1980s. As you may know, Bowmores from the 1980s have a dodgy reputation among whisky geeks—this because of the presence of strongly perfumed and/or soapy notes in a lot of the whisky they produced in this era. I’ve noted before that this (generally well-deserved) reputation has extended past the point at which these problems began to disappear: a lot of people’s suspicion of Bowmore extends to vintages produced well into the 1990s. My own experience would suggest that the problems were mostly gone by the early 1990s and that even a lot of the late 1980s distillate was not marred in this way—see, for example, this other 1989 from Liquid Sun. And my experience would also suggest that A.D. Rattray—with their Bowmore connections—have always been a very good bet when it comes to this iconic distillery. Some of the best indie Bowmores I’ve had have come from them—see this 20 yo from 1990, for example (and there was also an 18 yo from 1991 that was just excellent—I finished my last open bottle of that before I started the blog but still have a bottle in reserve). Will this one be as good as the best of the Rattray bottlings of this era? I’m hoping for the best.
Bowmore 23, 1989 (53.1%; refill sherry hogshead #1100; A.D. Rattray; from a bottle split)
Nose: Soft, minerally peat, vanilla and butter cream. More peppery on the second sniff and expanding lemon, edging into citronella pretty quickly. With more time a custardy/citrussy note develops—some kiwi in there too. The peaty notes turn into paraffin. With water the fruit intensifies a little and integrates more fully with the peat/paraffin/pepper.
Palate: Leads with ashy peat with lemon building on the back end. Sweeter notes on the second sip and then just a bit of glycerine and some white pepper. Not much sign of the sherry here either. With more time the glycerine/soapy note expands a little too much. Water pulls out more of the lemon and ash and pushes the soapy note back a fair bit.
Finish: Long. The ashy notes expand and fill the mouth. The lemon is still here along with some wet stones/concrete. The glycerine note that shows up on the palate expands a bit here but it’s not too obtrusive. The glycerine persists longer here even with water.
Comments: A very good nose but even without the mild soapy/glycerine note (which water mitigated on the palate) the ceiling was not very high for this on the whole. Even the good stuff is just a little too straightforward. And this must have been an nth fill sherry cask.
Rating: 83 points.