Bowmore 17, 1997 (SMWS)


On Saturday, to mark the fifth anniversary of the blog, I posted a review of the second release of the Bowmore Devil’s Casks. That official sherried Bowmore ended up being a bit too sulphurous even for my generally sulphur-tolerant palate. It was a good whisky, I thought, but it could have been a lot better. Today, I have a review of another heavily sherried Bowmore. This one was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and I believe it was bottled for the 2015 edition of Feis Ile. I purchased my bottle a couple of years ago at auction in the UK. It wasn’t cheap—though much cheaper than it is now—but I am a big fan of Bowmore and few propositions in whisky are more enticing to me than high-quality sherried Bowmore. The early reviews certainly made this out to seem like one of those. Spoiler alert: when I opened the bottle I found it to indeed be a high-quality sherried Bowmore. The bottle is now sadly empty. Here are my notes (taken when only about a quarter of the bottle remained).

Oh yes, the SMWS called this one “Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy” for some reason.

Bowmore 17, 1997 (57.1; SMWS 3.243; refill sherry butt; from my own bottle)

Nose: Leather, stewed plums, pencil lead, bacon fat, pipe tobacco, raisins. On the second sniff there’s polished oak and earthy peat. With time there’s sweet citrus. With a few drops of water the fruit is emphasized even more and there’s some toffee too. Oh, after a minute or two the fruit on the nose is really quite lovely: orange peel, apricot, preserved lemon.

Palate: Much smokier here with ashy, acidic smoke that coats my mouth; citrus and raisins and pepper below that. On the second sip there’s sweeter fruit (orange, apricot) and there’s some charred meat and dried mushrooms along with the ashy smoke. Very drinkable at full strength. With more time there’s some dark chocolate and charred oak. Okay, time for water. Hmm water seems to make it sharper still. Let’s give it some time. Yes, it settles down after a couple of minutes—brighter and sweeter now with more charred meat.

Finish: Long. The ashy smoke and pepper hang out a good while, picking up salt as it goes. With time the fruit starts popping out here too at the end (orange peel, fig jam). With water there’s more oak and spice here.

Comments: Now, this is a high-quality sherried Bowmore. The bottle got fruitier and fruitier as it went on—I had it closer to 88 points when first opened but it’s much better now that it’s all but gone. Throughout, I liked it better with a bit of water: it added richness and complexity.

Rating: 91 points.

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