Bowmore 17, 2004 (SMWS 3.331)

The first whisky I ever reviewed on the blog was a Bowmore (the lowly Legend of yesteryear), and since then I’ve marked every anniversary of the blog with a Bowmore review. All except for the 10th anniversary this past Friday when I instead posted a look back at the decade on the blog. And so, a few days late, here is the requisite anniversary Bowmore review. This is a Bowmore 17, 2004, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and is one of several they’ve released that were distilled on the same day in 2004 and matured in second-fill hogsheads. Indeed, the whole sequence of releases from 3.330 to 3.341 (where 3 refers to the SMWS’ distillery code for Bowmore and the other digits to the release number) are casks that were filled with spirit distilled on February 16, 2004; and almost all of those casks were second-fill hogsheads. Confusingly, this release, 3.331 was put out under two different silly names by the SMWS. Whiskybase shows one with the name “Taken out to sea” and one with the name “Ice cream dusted with chimney soot”. The former was the allocation for the US market and I guess they may have given that a different name—everything else is the same, down to the tasting notes on the label. Fascinating, no?

Bowmore 17, 2004 (58.6%; SMWS 3.331; second-fill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Slightly bitter lime with peppery smoke running through it. Mineral notes emerge on the second sniff along with citronella and a touch of vanilla-cream and some salt. Increasingly coastal with each sniff: the salt turns to brine and is joined by some shells and some kelp. Meanwhile there’s sweeter fruit alongside the lime (peach, just a hint of passionfruit). Finally settles down with a mix of the fruit and the vanilla-cream. With a few drops of water the citronella picks up and brings the salt back with it.

Palate: Comes in as predicted by the nose at first but turns sweeter as I swallow, with a big burst of fruit. Very approachable at full strength; oily texture. The sweet fruit is in the front on the second sip (peach mostly) but the peppery and mineral peat is right there with it. With more time the salt emerges to join the fruit and the passionfruit and lime expand. Continues in this vein. Okay, let’s add water. As on the palate, it emphasizes the lime but the sweeter fruit is right there with it along with some ash.

Finish: Long. The fruit expands—that same combo of peach and passionfruit—with the peppery peat and the salt framing it on either side. As on the palate with time and water.

Comments: That very Bowmore mix of peppery mineral peat, fruit and coastal notes. Ardmore can be in the general ballpark but no other distillery comes close to offering this lovely complex of flavours. It puts me in mind of many of those excellent A.D Rattray casks of early-mid 1990s Bowmore. I can only hope that the three other samples I have from this SMWS sequence will be as good.

Rating: 90 points.



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