Bowmore 18, Manzanilla Cask

Not an exclusive release for the Whisky Exchange, but a currently available, recent release. Bowmore have released a couple of whiskies in what they’re calling the Vintner’s Trilogy. There’s this one, which is 18 years old—matured in ex-bourbon casks for 13 years and then in ex-Manzanilla sherry casks for another five (five years seems too long to be called a “finish”). There’s also a 26 year old which spent 13 years in ex-bourbon casks and another 13 in French wine casks. And the third will be released next year: a 27 yo whose second maturation will be in port pipes. This 18 yo is probably the only one you should expect to see me review. It runs around £100 in the UK whereas the 26 yo is around £400.

I was interested in this one as Bowmore’s generally coastal profile should in theory be a good match with dry, yeasty Manzanilla sherry notes. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. 

Bowmore 18, Manzanilla Cask (52.5%; double matured in manzanilla sherry casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: The sherry influence is quite mellow to start—just some nuttiness and salt lying above the usual Bowmore florals and fruit (grapefruit, lime). Some oak too. On the whole, a nice balance of elements. Gets more coastal as it sits (salt, kelp). With more time there’s some apricot jam as well. Water mellows it out further, bringing out some toffee and roasted malt.

Palate: More oak to start on the palate and ashy smoke. As I swallow, there’s a swelling of tropical fruit notes. Nice, fat texture. Saltier on the second sip. With more time the oak is less insistent and that nutty note from the nose emerges here as well. Just a hint of glycerine/soap that I could do without but it abates with time. Water knocks back the oak and the salt and integrates the smoke and fruit more fully.

Finish: Long. The fruit expands, melding nicely with the smoke and some black pepper. The salt expands as well with time. Smokier still with water but still fruity and salty.

Comments: This is really quite nice. It’s a very good example of the art of blending: the sherry sits in perfect balance with notes you get in ex-bourbon Bowmore. And, indeed, the salty/yeasty tang of manzanilla sherry matches well with the coastal character of Bowmore. If the price being asked for it in the US were not so high I’d get a bottle. It’s much cheaper in the UK but the hassle of acquiring a bottle from there drives down the value. I liked it a bit more than TWE’s Signatory cask which is quite a bit more expensive again.

Rating: 88 points.

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