Bowmore 11, 2000 (Douglas Laing OMC)

A second whisky review this week as today is the fourth anniversary of this blog going live, and I’ve always marked the anniversaries with a review of a Bowmore. My very first review was of the (then) entry-level Bowmore Legend. On March 24, 2014 I reviewed the official 12 yo, in 2015 the official 18 yo, and in 2016 another official release, the Prestonfield House Malt. This year I have an indie Bowmore. This is from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line and was bottled before the Laing business split, I think. It is from a sherry butt. There are actually two sherry butt OMC Bowmore 11s from 2000 released in November 2011 (as per Whiskybase). While the label on my sample bottle does not specify, I am pretty sure this is from Cask DL 7791; this because the source of my sample is listed as one of the raters for this cask on Whiskybase but not for the other—Jerome, if you’re reading, can you confirm? Well, whichever cask it is, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Bowmore 2001, “Wanted: Rabbit Franky The Mohre” (Jack Wieber)

Bowmore 2001, Wanted: Rabbit Franky the Mohre
Here is another bizarrely named release of Bowmore from Jack Wieber’s “Wanted” series. This was distilled in 2001 and was released in 2012. I have so far reviewed two others in this series (see here and here); those had odd names too but not quite as odd as this one, which I think I would, on the whole, rather not have explained. Well, I did like both of those a fair bit, so if oddness of name maps on to quality of whisky then I should be in for a treat. Let’s see how it goes.

Bowmore 2001, “Wanted: Rabbit Franky The Mohre” (53.4%; Jack Wieber; bourbon cask; from a purchased sample)

Nose: A little blank at first but then it starts getting both fruity (melon, a bit of guava) and coastal (seashells, brine). On the second sniff it’s also quite custardy and there’s some sweet and prickly peat too now. Fruitier with time. With water it gets a little mentholated but the custardy fruit is still to the fore.  Continue reading

Bowmore 10, 2002 (van Wees)

Bowmore 10, 2002, van Wees
Here is a review of a Bowmore that was released four and a half years ago and not in the United States. You’re welcome!

As you may know, Bowmore’s 1980s distillate has a very bad reputation, with a lot of the whisky produced from it demonstrating overly perfumed and soapy qualities. I’m one of those who thinks—based on my limited, random sampling—that the problem was mostly worked out by 1989 or so. However, it must be admitted that the soapy/glycerine thing pops up from time to time in the following decades as well. This 10 yo is an example of that. It wasn’t so pronounced when I first opened the bottle last year—it did very well at one of my local group’s blind tastings—but as it stayed open it magnified a little too much on the palate. I don’t mean to set off another round of Bowmore hysteria but I’m curious as to whether anyone else has encountered this elsewhere in early 2000s distillate. It may well be, of course, a case of an off barrel being bottled by an indie—I haven’t had any recent official releases that would have been distilled in this era.  Continue reading

Bowmore 23, 1989 (A.D. Rattray)

Bowmore 23, 1989, A.D. Rattray
Here is a Bowmore from the late 1980s. As you may know, Bowmores from the 1980s have a dodgy reputation among whisky geeks—this because of the presence of strongly perfumed and/or soapy notes in a lot of the whisky they produced in this era. I’ve noted before that this (generally well-deserved) reputation has extended past the point at which these problems began to disappear: a lot of people’s suspicion of Bowmore extends to vintages produced well into the 1990s. My own experience would suggest that the problems were mostly gone by the early 1990s and that even a lot of the late 1980s distillate was not marred in this way—see, for example, this other 1989 from Liquid Sun. And my experience would also suggest that A.D. Rattray—with their Bowmore connections—have always been a very good bet when it comes to this iconic distillery. Some of the best indie Bowmores I’ve had have come from them—see this 20 yo from 1990, for example (and there was also an 18 yo from 1991 that was just excellent—I finished my last open bottle of that before I started the blog but still have a bottle in reserve). Will this one be as good as the best of the Rattray bottlings of this era? I’m hoping for the best. Continue reading

Bowmore 15, Feis Ile 2012

Bowmore 15, Feis Ile 2012
This Bowmore 15 was bottled for Feis Ile (the annual Islay festival) in 2012. I first tasted it in August at one of my friend Rich’s annual (more or less) tastings of sherried whiskies up in St. Paul, and he was generous enough to share a large sample for review purposes. Bowmore’s Feis Ile releases don’t get as publicity as those of Ardbeg and Laphroaig, whose releases are generally widely available (i.e. you don’t need to go to Feis Ile to get your hands on them) and nor do they command the reputation or secondary market prices of Lagavulin’s releases. Indeed, this might be the first of their Feis Ile releases that I’ve tried. I have tried other limited edition, heavily sherried Bowmores of similar age before though and some of those were very good as well (see, for example, the 13 yo Maltmen’s Selection). Unlike those I’m not sure if this was full-term matured in a sherry cask—I failed to take a close look at the bottle when I had the chance, and looking around now I see a reference to it being finished in Spanish sherry casks. Well, I guess I’ll ask Rich in the morning. I quite liked this at the tasting and am looking forward to being able to pay closer attention to it tonight.  Continue reading

Bowmore 10, Prestonfield House Malt

Bowmore10, Prestonfield House Malt
Today is the third anniversary of my blog. And since my very first review was of a Bowmore it’s become a mini-tradition to review a Bowmore on each anniversary. I began with the lowly Bowmore Legend,  moved up to the OB 12 for my first anniversary and then to the OB 18 for my second anniversary. For my third anniversary I’m going back down in age, to this 10 yo about which I know nothing other than that since it was bottled in the late 1980s it must have been distilled in the 1970s. I believe this was an official bottling too.

It’s been an unexpected three years—I never had any particular ambitions for the blog and never imagined that I would have the readership that I’ve gradually come to have. My audience is still quite small compared to many but it’s quality not quantity that counts. Now you can be a smart ass and point out that with five posts a week on average I certainly seem to post a high quantity. But enough cloying sentiment!   Continue reading

Bowmore 12, 2001 (Signatory for K&L)

Bowmore 12, 2001, Signatory for K&L
Okay, let’s make it five whisky reviews in a row this week. This Bowmore was one of K&L’s 2014 selections (I think—I purchased it this summer at any rate). I opened it for one of my whisky group’s tastings at the end of the summer and then took it back to our November tasting. I liked it better the second time than I did the first—our group is now so large that I was one of only two people who were at both tastings and I forgot to ask the other person if his views had likewise shifted. I found it a bit too rough/sulphurous on the first go but those notes seemed to have receded with a couple of months of air in the bottle. It’s now been a few weeks since that second tasting and the bottle is almost empty, and so it should be mellower still.

(Michael K. reviewed this in the summer, by the way—he liked it more and didn’t pick up the rough notes I remark.)   Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1990 (Wilson & Morgan)

Bowmore 22, 1990 (Wilson & Morgan)
It’s been a while since I’ve had a good sherried Bowmore and I am hoping this may be one of them. It was distilled in 1990 (just at the edge of the danger zone). The last sherried 1990 I tasted was excellent (this one from A.D. Rattray) but that was full-term matured in a sherry cask, I believe; this is a PX finish (presumably of an ex-bourbon cask). As to how long the finishing period was, I have no idea. As for where the finish happened: from Wilson & Morgan’s website it appears that they’ve released a number of sherry finished malts and that they purchase their own sherry casks for the purpose (see here). Is this common among other independent bottlers who release finished whiskies as well? I would imagine many indies are not set up to do this sort of thing (unlike Wilson & Morgan or Murray McDavid who have/had wine business history)—if so, where do their finished casks come from? Are they leftovers from distilleries’ own special releases/experiments? If you know more about this phenomenon, please write in below.  Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 1998 (Chester Whisky)

Bowmore 15, 1990 (Chester Whisky)
Talk about Bowmore’s notorious period in the 1980s seems to have largely died down these days. As you doubtless know, their distillate then was very often marred by an extremely perfumed and soapy character, the cause of which was never accounted for (indeed the distillery never acknowledged it). I’ve noted before that in my view this period more or less ends by 1989, and that by the distillation years of 1990/91 Bowmore is no longer a chancy proposition. Others put the boundary line a bit later, but there’s general agreement now on there being a Bowmore renaissance in the 1990s.

Recently, however, I’ve had some bad luck again with some bottles from casks filled at the end of the decade. No, it’s not the perfumed thing again, and it may just be bad luck, but I’ve come across a few that exhibit an astringent soapiness on the palate and finish. This 15 yo from 1998 is one of them; next month I’ll be reviewing a 7 yo from 2000 that also has it. I don’t mean to start a new hysteria about Bowmore—which remains one of my favourite distilleries—but I am interested to hear if others have encountered this as well in any consistent manner. I welcome corroboration in the comments and I especially welcome a rubbishing of the notion by those who’ve had a larger random sampling of Bowmores from this general period. Continue reading

Bowmore, “Small Batch”

Bowmore Small Batch
This is the recent NAS Bowmore—it was released a few years ago in the UK and Europe and only arrived much later in the US, as is not unusual. As per the distillery, it contains malt matured in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks and then married together. I can’t recall whether it replaces the Legend or if it’s just going to sit alongside it at the bottom of their price list. It’s hard to keep track of Bowmore these days: they seem to release a new whisky every other day for regular or travel retail. Like the Legend, this one is at 40% abv, which seems a little too low these days for even entry-level whisky. You’d think something with the words “small batch” slapped on the label would carry at least a bit more punch and be unchillfiltered. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

The Legend (which was my first review on the blog) is/was a drinkable, inoffensive whisky—what will this one be like?  Continue reading

Bowmore 18

Bowmore 18
The blog turns 2 today
. My first review was of the entry-level Bowmore Legend and I marked the first anniversary last year with a review of the Bowmore 12. As I don’t have any of the 15 yo Darkest at hand, this year I have the Bowmore 18. This is a malt I haven’t had in many years now, and one that seems to get lost in the shuffle among whisky geeks (and the biggest of all whisky geeks really doesn’t like it). You don’t find people talking about this as much as about 18 yo whiskies from most other distilleries of similar stature and it rarely seems to be recommended to anyone looking for a (relatively) older bottle.

Serge’s redoubtable influence aside, some of this is, I’m sure, due to lingering phobia about older Bowmores on account of the problems of the 1980s distillate; some of it is probably due to the fact that it continues to be bottled at 43% with chill-filtration and a fake tan; and some of it is probably due to the fact that the distillery itself has been making most of its noise in recent years around limited editions like the Tempest, Laimrig and the Devil’s Casks. While these three limited editions are not NAS there does seem to be more of that now at Bowmore than ever before: the Small Batch has joined the Legend in the core range, and only one of the three new Islay beach-themed travel retail exclusives is not NAS (the White Sands 17). Well, Bowmore has been putting out a large range of whisky for some time now—there’s probably little reason to worry about middle-aged bottles disappearing. Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2002 (Exclusive Malts for K&L)

Bowmore 11, 2002I received a sample of this Bowmore 11 in a swap with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and after I received it I realized I already had an unopened bottle of it. I finally opened it a few months ago for one of our local group’s tastings and we finished the rest of the bottle at our August tasting—I occasionally repeat bottles that were contentious in some way or the other to see if our responses might change as the whisky does with time and air. I’d planned to review it when the bottle had just been opened but didn’t get around to it because I read Michael’s review and wanted to forget about it before tasting—and then I forgot about the whisky completely. This review is of the last pour from the bottle, but please keep in mind that the evening before this had been at the halfway point—so it’s not a hugely oxidized pour that’s been sitting at the very bottom of the bottle for a long time (and the bottle itself was only open for less than five months).

(I’d also assumed I’d photographed the bottle when I’d originally planned to review it but while posting this review realized I never had: hence the picture of the empty bottle.) Continue reading

Bowmore 10, Devil’s Casks, 1st Ed.

Bowmore, Devil's Casks
This was released late last year to a fair bit of acclaim. I believe it is fetching ludicrous prices on the secondary market in Europe. In a conscious attempt to stop chasing every new “noisy” release I passed on a bottle—ditto with this year’s Ardbeg Supernova. It was a bit of a tough decision though as Bowmore is one of my favourites and good sherried Bowmore, in particular, is one of life’s great, and quite unique, pleasures. (See my reviews of some I’ve liked a lot: here, here and here). Courtesy a sample swap, however, I get to taste it anyway—hopefully, this will not lead to too much regret.

There’s a second edition out, by the way. Despite the frenzy that erupted around the first release, Bowmore has kept the price of the second edition the same—to their great credit. There are stories though of unscrupulous retailers in Europe marking it up dramatically or in some cases even selling bottles at auction. I wonder what the story will be when it gets to the US. Continue reading

Bowmore 16, 1996 (Faultline)

Bowmore 16, 1996, Faultline
This Bowmore 16 was one of K&L’s cask selections for 2013 that was delayed and finally arrived in early 2014. It’s been the subject of some mixed reviews since, with at least one prominent (ex?)blogger recording very less than enthused notes on it while the purveyor reports that many customers like it a lot (see the comments on Tim’s post). Me, I’ve not had any bad mid-1990s Bowmores, especially from sherry casks and so I was not overly bummed to read Tim’s pan. Bowmore can be an idiosyncratic spirit and there are other bottles, official and indie, from the distillery that I seem to like a lot more than many others.

Accordingly, I opened the bottle for our local group’s tasting in June and the response was all over the map. A few in the group had it as their top whisky of the night, a few had it at the bottom, and most had it somewhere in the middle (we drink one ounce each of four whiskies). Personally, I liked the nose and thought it was otherwise pedestrian but not objectionable. The bottle went to the halfway mark that night and I haven’t tried it since. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading