Bowmore 22, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)

Here’s another Old Malt Cask bottle but don’t panic, it’s not another from their 20th Anniversary release. No, this is a single cask of Bowmore, a refill hogshead, bottled for K&L in California. Somewhat unusually, it is bottled not at the standard 50% abv of the Old Malt Cask line but at 53.9%. Not that I follow K&L’s announcements very closely anymore—after Driscoll’s departure it’s a bit like going to the circus after they’ve got rid of all the clowns—but I didn’t recall much noise having been made about it. Thus when I asked Sku in January—when I was in Los Angeles—if there were any K&L exclusives he’d recommend I was surprised when he mentioned this. But I always do what Sku says and so I purchased a bottle. At about $150 it was not cheap but that’s pretty good these days for a Bowmore of this age. When I got back to Minnesota I opened it right away, and man, Sku was right. Which leads me to think that the lack of noise about this from K&L must mean either that they really don’t know what they have or that the way to separate the crap from the quality in what they bring in is to ignore the ones they shout about and get the ones they trust to sell themselves (though this did hang around for a good while). If K&L were still shipping out of state I would have purchased a few more bottles within minutes of tasting this, but they don’t and then they finally sold out anyway a few days later. Here at any rate are my notes.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (53.9%; Old Malt Cask for K&L; from my own bottle)

Nose: Lovely: ashy smoke, lemon, olive oil, oysters, passionfruit. A profile that no other distillery can give you. With time there’s a bit of vanilla cream but otherwise it stays consistent. Water makes it more acidic

Palate: Leads with the smoke and then the fruit comes up from below and expands, getting more tropical as it goes: passionfruit, yes, but also some tart pineapple and then guava. The smoke gets pricklier on the second sip and there’s quite a bit of white pepper mixed in now; it gets brinier too. Unlike on the nose, water makes it a bit sweeter on the palate and less peppery.

Finish: Medium-long. The fruit goes on with the sweeter guava coming out on top at first before yielding to salted lemons; the passionfruit pops out again at the end. Washed out a bit with water.

Comments: This is just lovely stuff. You don’t have to be chasing 1960s Bowmore or envying those who drink it; there’s very good fruity Bowmore being made and released even now. I wish I’d bought more than one bottle. And oh yes, there’s no need to add water to this.

Rating: 91 points.

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