Bowmore, Bw5 (Speciality Drinks)

If like me you were ever confused about the relationship between the Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, under whose name all the TWE releases (Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, Whisky Trail etc.) were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir Whisky Distillers; or maybe I should say that Speciality Drinks is now named Elixir Whisky Distillers. Apparently, a completely separate operation with the folks who work at the Whisky Exchange’s retail end not involved at all in picking casks etc. (which they may not have been before either, I suppose). This Bowmore, however, was released in the Elements of Islay series before the bottlers’ name changed. I’ve previously reviewed a few Ardbegs (Ar1 and Ar2) and Lagavulins (most recently, the Lg6) and a Laphroaig (Lp1) and a Caol Ila (the Ci1). As you can tell this is the fifth Bowmore they’ve released. Let’s see what it’s like.

By the way, while the Elements of Islay releases used to eschew age statements, this Bw5 is identified as a 19 yo. Or at least it was released in 2015 and TWE’s website specifies that the youngest casks used were filled in 1996. As to whether this signifies a change in attitude towards age statements for this line or whether it’s a case of an age being stated when it’s close to 20 years old, I don’t know. We’ll see, I guess.

Bw5 (50.2%; Elements of Islay; from a bottle split)

Nose: A sharp, mineral opening with sea air and kelp in the background; on the second sniff quite a bit of olive and salt and then expanding musky fruit (melon, lime zest). And, oh yes, smoke, which is somewhat ashy. Gets softer as it sits with some almond oil and a touch of vanilla-cream. Gets fruitier as it sits: think pineapple custard with not much pineapple in it. With a few drops of water the smoke and mineral notes are joined by some citronella and the softer notes integrate better with them.

Palate: Mineral peat and smoke at first and second but then the fruit begins to uncoil behind it. It’s no tropical fruit bomb but there’s quite a bit of lime leaf and some passionfruit and pineapple. Gets smokier and more acidic with each sip but there’s also a very faint glycerine note that mars it a bit. With more time still, the glycerine backs off. Okay, let’s see what water does. Alas, water seems to bring the glycerine back here and it’s stronger now than before. Too bad as the fruit expands behind it too.

Finish: Long. Gets quite salty with some white pepper and then expanding ashy smoke at the end. Gets fruitier as it goes and the glycerine note from the palate resolves to a cleaner bitter note that works well. More acidic here too with time. With water the glycerine note becomes dominant here.

Comments: Neat, it’s a classic minerally, fruity bourbon cask Bowmore. I don’t think I’d get a full bottle at the price (about $110 ex. vat for 500 ml)—though as 19 yo Bowmores go these days, the price is not unreasonable in the abstract. This is not an academic question: the Bw5 is still available in Europe. If you get a bottle, hold the water, obviously.

Rating: 87 points.

4 thoughts on “Bowmore, Bw5 (Speciality Drinks)

  1. FWIW I really liked this, and found plenty of tropical fun.

    I find this new bottler naming/branding confusing.
    Whiskybase and the Whisky Exchange themselves list the name of the bottler as “Elixir Distillers”, but I have also seen the name “Elixir Whisky” elsewhere as well.

    “Elixir Distillers” seems to be an unnecessarily ambiguous name though.


  2. Dammit, do I already have this wrong? To be fair, in the Twitter conversation in which Billy A. informed me of this he used Elixir Whisky and Elixir Distillers too. I think my brain stuck to Elixir Whisky as the more likely name as they’re not distillers.


    • Elixir Whisky seems to be another indie bottler entirely unrelated to TWE and it’s various sister companies. Elixir Distillers is the new name for Speciality Drinks. The new name was because we have another part of the Whisky Exchange empire that is also called Speciality Drinks, which was less than helpful. Hopefully the confusion may now fade with time…


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