Bowmore 18, 1998 (Wemyss Malts)


From a 10 yo Laphroaig to a 12 yo Yoichi to now an 18 yo Bowmore. I’m pretty sure the Yoichi Peaty & Salty had a sherry component but this one I know for certain is from a sherry butt. It was bottled a couple of years ago by Wemyss Malts, aka the other indie bottler who like to give their releases whimsical names. They called this one “Mocha on the Deck”. It was another sample I took with me to Lake Superior with a view to actually drinking it on a deck but which I instead drank inside the cabin while the mosquitoes taunted me from the other side of the window screen.

Sherried Bowmore can be great—I’m thinking in particular of an excellent 18 yo bottled by A.D Rattray almost a decade ago*. But I was not a huge fan of the the last full-on sherried Bowmore I reviewed. That was the official “Dark & Intense“, a 10 yo. I am hoping this will be a lot better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out in reality.

Bowmore 18, 1998 (59.3%; Wemyss Malts, “Mocha on the Deck”; sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mellow, slightly ashy peat, milk chocolate, some citrus peel. No sign of the Bowmore florals. Wait, as it sits they begin to emerge along with brighter citrus, olive brine and a more mineral smoke. A minute or two later the fruit is muskier (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). With more time the fruit pushes out further and there are softer notes of vanilla as well. More lemon with water and more phenols (Dettol); after a few beats more of the vanilla and softer fruit (a fruit tart of some kind).

Palate: Hits with the lemon and the ashy smoke. Quite hot at full strength, unsurprisingly. On the second sip there’s more oak and some cured meat; unfortunately, there’s also some sourness that I don’t like. With time the muskier fruit from the nose begins to show up but the sharper notes are still in the ascendancy. I’ll give it a bit more air and time and if no positive change occurs will add water. Okay, time and air are good for this: less of the sharp stuff and more of the fruit and, slowly, slowly, some tropical notes. Let’s see if water keeps the positive momentum going. Yes, more of the fruit and pastry notes here too with water and some white pepper. Better texture too—gets oilier.

Finish: Medium-long. Neat it’s mostly just hot with some sherry separation at the end. Let’s see what some air does for it. The heat dissipates and the good stuff that develops on the palate follows through. As on the palate with water and it goes on much longer now.

Comments: This started out very nicely on the nose, less so on the palate where it seemed like it might devolve into a sour, oaky, hot mess. But time, air and water were very good to it. Not quite at the level of some of the better sherried Bowmores I’ve had though and stops just short of 90 points (I had it starting out around 83).

Rating: 89 points.

*I think I saved a large reference sample from that bottle. If I can find it and if it’s in good shape I’ll review it next month. I do also have another full bottle of it stashed and I guess there’s no reason I couldn’t open that either.

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