Having arrived on Islay with Friday’s Caol Ila, I might as well stay here awhile. And I might as well follow the path we took when we arrived on Islay in 2017. Then too we got off the ferry not too far from Caol Ila and drove past Bowmore to our B&B. And so let’s do a Bowmore review next. This was bottled last year by Blackadder from a single hogshead.
Bowmore 17, 2002 (53.4%; Blackadder; hogshead 20199; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mineral smoke mixed with lemon and salt crystal. Clean and sharp. On the second sniff the trademark fruit and florals begin to emerge and the citrus and smoke move towards ashy lemon custard. The smoke gets meatier as it sits (ham) and the citrus gets muskier (makrut lime peel). A few drops of water and sweeter fruit begins to emerge from under the citrus (charred pineapple, peach).
Palate: Comes in sweeter (floral) and the smoke is ashier and heavier here. The salt and lemon are here too. Nice weight at full strength and quite approachable. A slight note of glycerin—let’s see if it burns off with time. Yes, with time the glycerin recedes and the whole gets more coastal with kelp and uni joining the sweeter notes and the mineral and ashy smoke. With more time still the ashy smoke gets the upper hand, turning a little bitter; the citrus gets more pronounced as well. Okay, let’s see what water does. It pushes the smoke back and emphasizes the citrus, which is now much muskier here as well. As it sits there’s some astringency—bitter lime peel rather than glycerin.
Finish: Long. The ashy smoke and salt continue for a while; not a whole lot of change here with time. The citrus bursts through here too with water and the smoke gets ashier. And the bitterness that develops on the palate follows through here as well.
Comments: This is very Bowmore in its mix of austere, coastal and fruity/floral notes. Yet another distillery that belies my skepticism about distillery character. Bowmore of this general age from a hogshead cask is pretty much a sure thing, isn’t it? The main question is how much fruit you’re going to get. This isn’t one of the most exuberantly fruity casks I’ve had but it has other pleasures to offer as well.
Rating: 88 points.