Bowmore 15, 2004 (SMWS for Feis Ile 2020)

The blog turns 8 today. What did you get it? Nothing? Typical. As long time readers—down to the low single digits at this point—know, my first-ever review was of a Bowmore—the one-time entry-level Bowmore Legend—and so I’ve marked every anniversary since with a review of a Bowmore: The OB 12 in 2014, the OB 18 in 2015 and so forth—the only other official release since 2015 was the 30 yo Sea Dragon in 2019; other than that it’s been a run of independent releases. Well, today’s is an independent release as well, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Feis Ile 2020. It was apparently finished in a first-fill barrique or port cask after 14 years in a bourbon hogshead and was given the whimsical name, Loungecore Stave Exoticism. (I’m sure this makes sense to someone but I am fine not having any idea what it’s a reference to.) I’m not sure that I’ve ever had any kind of port-bothered Bowmore before. Well, what better time than at the start of the blog’s ninth year?

Bowmore 15, 2004 (56.8%; SMWS 3.314 for Feis Ile 2020; from a bottle split)

Nose: Starts off with rosewood and incense. With a few minutes of airing these begin to let us some fruit come through: there’s some fig and also muskier notes of passionfruit. Some hoisin sauce too. A nice bit of charred woodsmoke runs through it all, getting ashier as it goes. With time some toffee pops up as well. Water brings out more citrus, some vanilla and then the pencil lead from the palate. As it sits again the fruit intensifies: apricot, fig, lemon. Very nice indeed.

Palate: Comes in spicier than expected and also woodier. Some wine separation off the top. It’s got a bite but it seems to be more from the oak and acid than from the alcohol. The fruit begins to pop out as I swallow. The wine separation continues on subsequent sips—might need water to bind it together. I hope it will as the fruit itself is very nice especially once joined by some floral notes in that Darjeeling tea/muscatel vein characteristic of Bowmore. Saltier as it goes. Hallelujah! Water does seem to tie the wine and the whisky together better and also pushes the oak back some—sweeter and smokier now

Finish: Long. The wine and the spirit recombine here somewhat, thank goodness, and the fruit leaves the final if not very intense impression. The salt expands here too with each sip and there’s some graphite/pencil lead at the end. With water the wine separation seems to get pushed to the finish but thankfully it’s only fleeting; otherwise as on the palate.

Comments: Hmmm this is a weird one. I liked the nose throughout and in the beginning it had me wishing this had just been bottled as a bourbon cask, which would probably have allowed the fruit to come through more strongly. The palate, however, had me thinking that perhaps this finish was done to rescue an over-oaked cask. There certainly is a fair bit of tannic bite here that never quite goes away. Well, if the port finish may have blunted what may have been even greater oak impact it also doesn’t seem to have fully come together (though water fixes that). This is very far from bad but it’s a mixed bag and until I added water had me thinking of better bourbon and sherry cask Bowmores that had most of the positive qualities here without the negatives. Which may be similar to what many of you are thinking of this blog after 8 years.

Rating: 86 points. (Pulled up by water.)


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