In December I reviewed a couple of recently released and very well received Bowmores: the OB 18 yo Manzanilla cask and a 15 yo bottled by Signatory for the Whisky Exchange. Today I have a younger cask released a a few years ago by Malts of Scotland. It was distilled in the same year as the Signatory cask, and is also a bourbon cask. As Malts of Scotland puts proprietary cask numbers on their bottles it’s not possible to know if this was from the same run of casks as the Signatory. Nonetheless, it should be possible to see through lines and get some sense of what might have been gained or lost in a few more years of maturation.
Young bourbon cask Bowmore remains a decent value in the single malt world. There’s a weird contradiction between the distillery’s standing and the average whisky geek’s continued suspicion of the character of their distillate; at least when it comes to bourbon cask whisky—heavily sherried Bowmore moves off the shelf quite quickly. Well, more for those of us who like this stuff. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.
Bowmore 11, 2002 (58.2%; Malts of Scotland; bourbon hogshead #12060; from my own bottle)
Nose: Mild, peppery peat, lemon, brine and a custardy-vanilla note; just a hint of diesel as well. Not too much change here with time. With water there’s citronella and butter and then grapefruit.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose but with more custard, more pepper and more smoke, getting tarrier as I swallow. On the second sip, wet stones and bitter lime zest. Very drinkable at full strength. With more time there’s a hint of glycerine but it also gets more phenolic and more coastal with sea urchin and kelp. With more time and air, custardy fruit notes begin to emerge: pineapple, green papaya, tart mango. A few drops of water get rid of the glycerin and make it more mineral than peppery; all the other stuff is still here but it’s less tarry than before.
Finish: Medium-long. The smoke expands here, getting ashier as it goes. Salt again at the end. Longer, smokier and fruitier with water.
Comments: An excellent young bourbon cask Bowmore. The glycerin note on the palate was a bit worrying but water fixed it nicely. I preferred it with water. And, on the whole, I preferred it slightly to the older TWE release which had more of the stuff that gave me pause here; and there’s more smoke here as well.
Rating: 88 points.