This Bowmore was released at a time almost a decade ago when one of the most popular memes in whisky geekdom was to complain about Bowmore’s distillate being marred by overly perfumed and soapy notes. The only thing that was more popular was to complain about sulphur. Now, it’s true that through most of the 1980s Bowmore’s distillate was seemingly marred by these qualities but it was almost entirely gone from 1989 onwards. The proof of this could be seen in none other than A.D. Rattray’s releases of Bowmore distilled in the early 1990s. Perhaps due to family connections to the distillery, Rattray, more than any other indie bottler available in the US, seemed to have a line on not just a lot of casks of 1990s Bowmore but a lot of excellent casks of Bowmore. I’ve reviewed a few of these (see this 20 yo from 1991 and this 20 yo from 1990). This particular cask, bottled for BevMo in California is a bit younger and from the middle of the decade. This is not the only Bowmore 14, 1996 Rattray bottled for BevMo. In the days before the blog I purchased and finished another cask with a much longer number. My spreadsheet doesn’t note that cask number and Whiskybase has no record of it but I know it was real! I’m also pretty sure I would have saved a 6 oz reference sample from that bottle, as that was my standard practice at the time. Well, if I like this one a lot that will be sufficient motivation to try and dig that out from the vault.
Bowmore 14, 1996 (54.8%; A.D. Rattray for BevMo; bourbon cask 2873; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Bright lemon and vanilla custard and ashy smoke and behind it the trademark Bowmore florals and fruit (passionfruit, grapefruit). The fruit gets stronger with every sniff and the whole also gets sweeter. As it sits it’s brinier/more coastal. With water the fruit gets pushed back and the coastal notes expand.
Palate: Comes in pretty much as promised by the nose with some bitter lemon zest mixed in with all the rest and darker smoke and pepper swirling up as I swallow. Nice texture at full strength. Gets more acidic as it sits and then also more smoky. A few drops of water meld everything together but also bring out just a hint of glycerine and with time something close to talcum powder—what, you don’t know what talcum powder tastes like?
Finish: Long. The bright smoke and fruit and white pepper merge and fade out slowly.
Comments: Classic ex-bourbon Bowmore of the era, this makes me really nostalgic for the time when Bowmores of this quality were widely available for reasonable prices. I think I am indeed going to have to rummage through the shelves and see if I did indeed save a sample of that other Rattray BevMo cask. Oh yes, I preferred this neat.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample (see his review here).