Bowmore, Bw1 (Speciality Drinks)


August ended with a peaty whisky (this Ledaig) and September began with another peaty whisky (this Laphroaig). Let’s stay on Islay this week and visit a few other distilleries, so to speak.

First up is this Bowmore from the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. Indeed, it’s the very first Bowmore in that series. I’m not sure what number it’s up to now but I’ve previously reviewed the Bw5. As per Whiskybase, this was put together from refill sherry casks from 1994, but as neither piece of information is noted on either the bottle’s label or The Whisky Exchange’s original product listing it’s hard to verify them. I can tell you for sure that it was bottled in 2012, which is when I purchased a bottle for roughly $75 at the then quite brutal, pre-Brexit exchange rate. Since the Elements of Islay bottles are 500 ml that works out to about $112 for a 750 ml equivalent of likely 17-18 yo Bowmore from sherry casks. At the current exchange rate it would have been quite a bit lower. By comparison, the Bw8, said to be 16 years old, is currently available from the Whisky Exchange for £117 ex. vat for a 500 ml. That would be £175 for a 750 ml equivalent or roughly $242 at the current exchange rate. I’m no mathematician but it would appear the price has more than doubled in 9 years. This is why I no longer buy very much whisky. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

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? Continue reading

Bowmore 18, Deep & Complex


A Bowmore to close the month. This is a Bowmore 18 but it is not the 18 yo that is part of the core range. No, this is a member of Bowmore’s travel retail collection or at least it originally was. I think all of these whiskies may now be available from regular stores as well in the UK and EU. The 18 yo, at any rate, is certainly listed at a few places in the UK and I got my bottle from a store in the EU. I’ve previously reviewed the two others from that collection that had similar epithets attached to their name: the Bowmore 10, Dark & Intense and the Bowmore 15, Golden & Elegant. I liked the 15 yo quite a bit and the 10 yo rather less (too much sulphur, even for me). Like that 10 yo—but not the 15 yo—this 18 yo is also from sherry casks, being a mix of spirit matured in oloroso and PX casks. What the exact mix is, I don’t know. It’s been a long time now since I last had the standard 18 yo but I rather liked it when I did. If this is as good as that I will be happy enough. Let’s see. Continue reading

Bowmore 25, 1994 (Adelphi)


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. Continue reading

Bowmore 17, 2002 (Blackadder)


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). Continue reading

Bowmore 11, Feis Ile 2017


My love of Bowmore collides here with my poor track record with whisky that has been in close proximity to wine casks. Yes, this 11 yo Bowmore released at Feis Ile in 2017 was matured in a combination of sherry and wine casks. I was not at Feis Ile in 2017—though I did visit Bowmore a few weeks later. I fear I will never be at Feis Ile, not even after the pandemic ends. I know how important whisky festivals are to many enthusiasts, and I know how important a festival like Feis Ile is to not just the distilleries involved but also to the local economy. But no description I’ve read of the crowds at Feis Ile and the long lines to purchase festival exclusives for purposes of auction flipping has ever made me wish I could have been there. And no, I’m not being hypocritical about the auction part. I purchased this bottle not from an auction but from a store in Tarbert shortly after our week on Islay ended in 2017—and I paid less than was being asked at auction at the time. Three years later, I’m finally opening it. Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2001 (Maltbarn)


Hello, the blog is seven years old today. As per Sku, I have three more years before I have to shut it down. Though, truth be told, I’m having some trouble right now mustering enough enthusiasm to keep it going through the isolation/quarantine—and judging by readership numbers very few of you are currently enthusiastic enough to show up to read this shortly after it posts. But an anniversary is an anniversary.

My very first review was of a Bowmore—the lowly Bowmore Legend of years past—and since then I’ve marked every anniversary with a Bowmore review. What can i say? I’m notoriously sentimental. I am feeling particularly sentimental today as this is the fourth of five reviews of bottles I opened during my 50th birthday week that mark significant years of my life (see here, here and here). This Bowmore was distilled in 2001, the year I met my partner. We’re currently 19 years in but this is only an 11 yo. Continue reading

Bowmore 14, 1996 (A.D. Rattray for BevMo)


Last month I reviewed a Bowmore 14, 1996 bottled by A.D. Rattray for BevMo. This is not that Bowmore 14, 1996. It is another one bottled at the same time but which for some reason does not show up on Whiskybase or have much of any other kind of trail online. I purchased a bottle in the Hollywood BevMo not too long after it was released and finished it not too long thereafter (before starting the blog). As per my spreadsheet I liked it a lot. Reviewing the other one reminded me of this one and the likelihood that I had saved a 6 oz reference sample of it—as used to be my practice back then with all bottles I owned.Sure enough, when I looked there it was. And here now is a formal review.

Bowmore 14, 1996 (59.1%; A.D. Rattray for BevMo; bourbon cask 960029; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)  Continue reading

Bowmore 21, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


Let’s continue with the review of the recent K&L exclusive casks. And no, they’re not paying me for all this free, extended coverage of their whiskies. For that matter, they don’t even appear to be enjoying it. Ah well, can’t please everyone.

Speaking of not pleasing everyone, Bowmore is also a distillery that has not always pleased everyone. This is mostly due to folly on the part of the fraction of everyone who have not been pleased. Bourbon cask Bowmore from the early 1990s on is usually a very good proposition. So much so that I’ve even really liked a K&L exclusive cask in that vein. Last year they had an OMC 22 year old that I purchased on Sku’s recommendation while in Los Angeles and loved to the tune of 91 points. I won’t need this to be that good to make me happy but I will also not object if it is. Let’s see. Continue reading

Bowmore 14, 1996 (A.D. Rattray for BevMo)


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.  Continue reading

Bowmore 10, 1999 (Murray McDavid)


Let’s close out the week with another wine cask-finished whisky, another peated whisky, and yet another Bowmore bottled by Murray McDavid. This was distilled and released a few years after Wednesday’s Viognier finish. And unlike the other Bowmore and Monday’s Port Charlotte 13 the wine casks used for this whisky’s finish had previously held red wine—syrah to be exact. Even though I really liked that Port Charlotte and also thought the Viognier-finish Bowmore was quite pleasant, I am a bit apprehensive about this one as red wine finishes are the source of my prejudice against wine cask finished whisky. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.

Bowmore 10, 1999 (46%; Murray McDavid; bourbon and syrah casks; from a bottle split)  Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 1995 (Murray McDavid)


As I noted in passing in my review on Monday of a wine cask-finished Port Charlotte, I am not generally a fan of wine cask-finished whiskies. Most of the ones I have had—like that Port Charlotte—have emerged from Bruichladdich. So too in a sense has this Bowmore. It was bottled by Murray McDavid, the indie bottling arm of Mark Reynier-era Bruichladdich, and a label that put out a large number of wine cask- finished or, as they liked to call them, “ACE’d” whiskies. This particular release started out in bourbon casks and ended up in viognier casks. Well, Monday’s Port Charlotte was from French white wine casks as well and I unexpectedly quite liked it. Will the positivity continue with this one? Let’s see.

Bowmore 11, 1995 (46%; Murray McDavid; bourbon & viognier casks; from a bottle split)  Continue reading

Bowmore 16, 1996 (SMWS)


A Bowmore to close out the month. I took this sample of a 16 yo bottled by the SMWS with me to our trip to the North Shore in July. But my dreams of drinking it on the deck while listening to Lake Superior crash on the rocks in front of the cabin were dashed or rather punctured by the swarms of mosquitoes that made it all but impossible to be outside the cabin unless covered in deet. I did manage to taste it inside the cabin though. I might not have been able to hear Lake Superior (the screens on the windows sucked and so they had to be kept closed at all times) but I could at least see it. None of this has anything to do with Bowmore really, except that the distillery is also located by the side of a large body of cold water. Anyway, I’ve held on to these notes for a long time for no good reason. So, now that summer is well and truly done in Minnesota and even the mosquitoes are finally on the run, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Bowmore 18, 1998 (Wemyss Malts)


From a 10 yo Laphroaig to a 12 yo Yoichi to now an 18 yo Bowmore. I’m pretty sure the Yoichi Peaty & Salty had a sherry component but this one I know for certain is from a sherry butt. It was bottled a couple of years ago by Wemyss Malts, aka the other indie bottler who like to give their releases whimsical names. They called this one “Mocha on the Deck”. It was another sample I took with me to Lake Superior with a view to actually drinking it on a deck but which I instead drank inside the cabin while the mosquitoes taunted me from the other side of the window screen.

Sherried Bowmore can be great—I’m thinking in particular of an excellent 18 yo bottled by A.D Rattray almost a decade ago*. But I was not a huge fan of the the last full-on sherried Bowmore I reviewed. That was the official “Dark & Intense“, a 10 yo. I am hoping this will be a lot better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out in reality. Continue reading

Bowmore 21, 1996 (OMC)


The last 1996 Bowmore I reviewed was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Old Malt Cask series and was dynamite. It was full of coastal notes and tropical fruit. That one was an exclusive for K&L in California and was bottled at cask strength from a hogshead. Before that I’d reviewed another couple of OMC Bowmore 22, 1996s that were part of the Old Malt Cask 20th anniversary release. Those were both also bottled from hogsheads. I liked one of those very much as well, and the other a bit less. There does seem to be a lot of 1996 Bowmore about—Whiskybase lists 143 releases, bottled between 2005 and 2018. Then again they list even more 1997s and 1998s and even 2000s—so it must just be the case that a lot of Bowmore from that era became available to the independents. I don’t know if anyone’s sorted through enough releases from all these years to come up with a magic vintage theory yet. Maybe if I like this one a lot too I can start a Bowmore 1996 campaign. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


Here’s another Old Malt Cask bottle but don’t panic, it’s not another from their 20th Anniversary release. No, this is a single cask of Bowmore, a refill hogshead, bottled for K&L in California. Somewhat unusually, it is bottled not at the standard 50% abv of the Old Malt Cask line but at 53.9%. Not that I follow K&L’s announcements very closely anymore—after Driscoll’s departure it’s a bit like going to the circus after they’ve got rid of all the clowns—but I didn’t recall much noise having been made about it. Thus when I asked Sku in January—when I was in Los Angeles—if there were any K&L exclusives he’d recommend I was surprised when he mentioned this. But I always do what Sku says and so I purchased a bottle. At about $150 it was not cheap but that’s pretty good these days for a Bowmore of this age. When I got back to Minnesota I opened it right away, and man, Sku was right. Which leads me to think that the lack of noise about this from K&L must mean either that they really don’t know what they have or that the way to separate the crap from the quality in what they bring in is to ignore the ones they shout about and get the ones they trust to sell themselves (though this did hang around for a good while). If K&L were still shipping out of state I would have purchased a few more bottles within minutes of tasting this, but they don’t and then they finally sold out anyway a few days later. Here at any rate are my notes. Continue reading

Bowmore 30, Sea Dragon


The blog turns six today and so here is the customary Bowmore review. My first ever review was of the lowly Bowmore Legend and since then I’ve posted a Bowmore review on every anniversary. In 2014 I reviewed the Bowmore 12 and in 2015 the Bowmore 18—but that’s as high as the age statements have gone on these anniversary reviews. Well, this year’s review is of a much older Bowmore—indeed, the oldest I’ve ever tasted—and it’s from a series with a very strong reputation: the Sea Dragon. A number of batches of these were released from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, all in ceramic bottles with striking art on them and it’s not always easy to know which release a given bottle is from. I got this sample from Matt G. and he couldn’t find a bottle code anywhere on his black ceramic bottle. Assuming this was not actually from a 2000s release, this will be both my first-ever 30 yo Bowmore and my first-ever 60s Bowmore. Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


On Monday I posted a review of one of two Bowmore 22, 1996s released by Hunter Laing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I really liked that one. Here now is my review of the second which I hope I will like at least as much. It is also from an ex-bourbon cask.

This is the last of my OMC 20th anniversary reviews—if anyone has any first-hand reports on any of the others released in the series, please write in below. I’m particularly interested in those that are still available: as you know I don’t approve of talk of whiskies that are not currently available. Thanks in advance.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (50%; OMC 20th Anniversary; cask 17078; from a bottle split)

Nose: Milder than the sibling cask with the floral notes, a bit of cream and a bit of smoke. With a few drops of water it’s a bit maltier and muskier but not very much more expressive.  Continue reading