I’m still on Islay. On Friday I had a review of a 23 yo indie Bunnahabhain; today I have a review of an indie Bowmore that is a couple of years older still. I’ve not had too many Bowmores in this age range and have only reviewed one older than this one (the Sea Dragon). I have had a number of Bowmores from the period in which this was distilled and have liked almost all of them very much indeed. As you may know/recall, 1980s Bowmore does not have a very good reputation—for among other things, a soapy character—and a lot of whisky geeks remained suspicious of the distillery’s output into the early/mid 1990s as well. My own experience—far more limited than some others’—suggests that the problems had begun to sort themselves out by 1989 or so and that by the early 1990s the distillery was once again putting out elegant whisky that displayed fruit alongside its trademark florals. Of course, those floral notes are also not to everyone’s taste but that’s not to say they’re a flaw. Anyway, I’m very interested to see what this one is like, both on account of its age and because it’s from a refill sherry cask. I think all the others I’ve reviewed from this era have been either ex-bourbon or more heavily sherried. Let’s get to it.
Bowmore 25, 1994 (54.2%; Adelphi; refill sherry cask 554; from a bottle split)
Nose: Big notes of citrus as I pour (orange peel, lemon) and then ashy smoke begins to emerge along with coastal notes (uni, brine) and meatier savoury notes. On the second sniff the citrus is brighter (grapefruit) and there’s more musky fruit behind (pineapple, dragonfruit) along with some of the trademark Bowmore florals. The savoury notes expand as it sits with ham brine joining the coastal complex; and the lemon gets preserved. A few drops of water emphasize the fruit (lemon, pineapple, prickly pear) and push the smoke back.
Palate: The musky fruit hits first with the ashy smoke close behind. Very approachable at full strength—the bite is as much from the acid as the alcohol. Sweeter as it goes and there are wet stones mixed in with the ashy smoke (which has some savoury sulphur mixed in with it now). With time the grapefruit expands and merges nicely with the coastal notes which expand as well; there’s quite a bit of cracked pepper too now. A few more sips and I’ll add some water. Ah yes, with water the musky notes expands with that uniquely Bowmore mix of tropical fruit, sweet florals, ashy smoke, charred meat and cracked pepper.
Finish: Long. The smoke lingers but the fruit doesn’t quite expand as I’d hoped it would. With time the muskier fruit does expand here but it’s far from a tropical explosion. The fruit expands here too with water along with the pepper.
Comments: This is a lovely Bowmore with the sherry not too dominant. I would have liked a bit more fruit but I’m not going to complain too much. Well, maybe about the price. This is very good but I wouldn’t pay the €340 or so that seems to be the current asking price. But then I wouldn’t pay that for almost any whisky.
Rating: 90 points.