The Secret Islay (The Whisky Shop)

Last week I posted a look at a very brief stop at The Whisky Shop on Victoria Street in Edinburgh. Today I have a review of the 100 ml sample I purchased of their so-called Secret Islay cask. I say “so-called” because—as I noted last week—the gent attending to their store casks told us it was a young Bowmore before we’d even thought to ask. Less than 10 years old, I think he said it was. I got a taste and liked it enough to get a 100 ml sample. As I also noted last week, their store casks are not priced in line with what they are. This was £12, and that for a young whisky at 40%. Cadenhead’s seems like even more of a great deal by comparison; as I also noted last week, 500 ml of this would have cost me more than 700 ml of the far superior Cadenhead’s Campbeltown cask (a sherried Springbank). How do I know the Cadenhead’s Campbeltown cask was superior? I drank them both while up in the Speyside later that week and took these notes then. Continue reading

Bowmore 10, Dark & Intense


Last month I reviewed the Bowmore 15 “Golden & Elegant”, one of the three age-stated whiskies that make up Bowmore’s recent’ish revamp of their travel-retail line (I guess given how many of the whiskies sold in airports cost more there than they do on the high street the companies feel self-conscious about using the term “duty free”). This 10 yo is the youngest in the line. The name “Dark & Intense”—I assume they named it after me—indicates the different composition of this release. Where the “Golden & Elegant” is a vatting of first-fill bourbon casks, this is a vatting of Spanish oak sherry casks. In theory that should be very good news. Bowmore from sherry casks can be very good indeed and I’ve had some very nice intensely sherried ones of this general age—see this 11yo and this slightly older 13 yo; the official Devil’s Casks 1st Ed. and 2nd Ed.—both also 10 year olds—were pretty good too. Unlike those, or even the Golden & Elegant, however, this is only at 40%. Will it be as good as its 15 yo sibling? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Bowmore 15, “Golden & Elegant”


In the last year or so Bowmore have released a new series of whiskies for travel retail as part of a larger overhaul of their portfolio (the Small Batch has been discontinued). Somewhat unusually for releases for this market, the new Bowmores have age statements: there’s a 10 yo, a 15 yo and an 18 yo. Of course, since it’s for travel retail they also have silly names. The 10 yo is billed as “Dark & Intense” and the 18 yo as “Deep & Complex”. This 15 yo is “Golden & Elegant”. As you might expect from the name, this whisky comprises spirit matured in first-fill bourbon casks.; this is in contrast to the regular release Bowmore 15 “Darkest” (which I should really get around to reviewing sometime). Personally, I think teenaged bourbon cask Bowmore can be a very excellent and somewhat unique thing. Certainly the even younger Tempest (later sold as the Dorus Mor in the US) was very good. Let’s take a closer look at this one. Continue reading

Bowmore 20, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)


I’m going to start the month with reviews of some of K&L’s recently released exclusives. This may seem timely but keep in mind that most of these have already sold out. This Bowmore, bottled under the Old Particular label from Douglas Laing, might still be available, however. The last time I reviewed a bunch of K&L selections—back in December 2016, starting with this Linkwood)—things didn’t go so well. Will this lot be any better? The odds, frankly, are not great. K&L’s strategy seems to be to look for casks with high age and low price numbers on them with the quality an afterthought. A lot of people want deals and 20-30 yo whisky for less than $200 seems like a great deal in this market in the abstract. It’s in the marketing copy that they’ll seek to convince you that you’re also getting amazing whisky. And even though David Driscoll is now gone from K&L, their ability to turn on the tap of hyperbole remains unaffected.  Continue reading

Bowmore 17, 1997 (SMWS)


On Saturday, to mark the fifth anniversary of the blog, I posted a review of the second release of the Bowmore Devil’s Casks. That official sherried Bowmore ended up being a bit too sulphurous even for my generally sulphur-tolerant palate. It was a good whisky, I thought, but it could have been a lot better. Today, I have a review of another heavily sherried Bowmore. This one was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and I believe it was bottled for the 2015 edition of Feis Ile. I purchased my bottle a couple of years ago at auction in the UK. It wasn’t cheap—though much cheaper than it is now—but I am a big fan of Bowmore and few propositions in whisky are more enticing to me than high-quality sherried Bowmore. The early reviews certainly made this out to seem like one of those. Spoiler alert: when I opened the bottle I found it to indeed be a high-quality sherried Bowmore. The bottle is now sadly empty. Here are my notes (taken when only about a quarter of the bottle remained). Continue reading

Bowmore 10, Devil’s Casks, 2nd Ed.


I made my first post on this blog on March 24, 2013—I didn’t actually tell anybody about it till a while later but March 24 is the anniversary of the blog. My very first review on that day was a review of a Bowmore—the Legend—and I’ve marked every anniversary since with another Bowmore review. On the first anniversary I reviewed the first release of the Devil’s Casks, and now on the fifth anniversary I have a review of the second release (I don’t remember in what year this was actually released). I don’t know that I planned to be blogging for five years when I started out—my life is littered with things I started with great enthusiasm and then abandoned—but here I still am. Truth be told, adding food to the mix probably saved me from getting burned out. I’m not quite as engaged with the whisky world as I was when I started the blog and I’m not sure that whisky blogs (or food blogs, for that matter) are even particularly relevant anymore. I certainly read fewer blogs than I once did and can’t imagine why anybody reads mine.  Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2002 (Malts of Scotland)


In December I reviewed a couple of recently released and very well received Bowmores: the OB 18 yo Manzanilla cask and a 15 yo bottled by Signatory for the Whisky Exchange. Today I have a younger cask released a a few years ago by Malts of Scotland. It was distilled in the same year as the Signatory cask, and is also a bourbon cask. As Malts of Scotland puts proprietary cask numbers on their bottles it’s not possible to know if this was from the same run of casks as the Signatory. Nonetheless, it should be possible to see through lines and get some sense of what might have been gained or lost in a few more years of maturation.

Young bourbon cask Bowmore remains a decent value in the single malt world. There’s a weird contradiction between the distillery’s standing and the average whisky geek’s continued suspicion of the character of their distillate; at least when it comes to bourbon cask whisky—heavily sherried Bowmore moves off the shelf quite quickly. Well, more for those of us who like this stuff. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Bowmore 18, Manzanilla Cask


Not an exclusive release for the Whisky Exchange, but a currently available, recent release. Bowmore have released a couple of whiskies in what they’re calling the Vintner’s Trilogy. There’s this one, which is 18 years old—matured in ex-bourbon casks for 13 years and then in ex-Manzanilla sherry casks for another five (five years seems too long to be called a “finish”). There’s also a 26 year old which spent 13 years in ex-bourbon casks and another 13 in French wine casks. And the third will be released next year: a 27 yo whose second maturation will be in port pipes. This 18 yo is probably the only one you should expect to see me review. It runs around £100 in the UK whereas the 26 yo is around £400.

I was interested in this one as Bowmore’s generally coastal profile should in theory be a good match with dry, yeasty Manzanilla sherry notes. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.  Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 2001 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


Since I am the kind of blogger who regularly posts reviews of whiskies that are currently available (see my recent reviews of the Ardbeg 10, the Lagavulin 12 CS, the Highland Park “Full Volume”, Old Weller Antique etc.), here is a review of a Bowmore 15 that is still available. It’s true that it’s only available from The Whisky Exchange in London, but how much do you want from me?! Does nothing satisfy you?!

This is an exclusive bottling for TWE by Signatory and it costs a pretty penny. 16,000 pretty pennies, to be exact—which may seem to you—as it does to me—like a lot of pennies for a 15 yo Bowmore from an ex-bourbon cask (not, in the abstract, such a rare commodity). However, the price is said to be justified by its fruity quality and so when the opportunity to split a bottle with a few people arose, I jumped at it. At this price, you want to try before you buy. Well, let’s try it now.   Continue reading

Bowmore 10, 2003 (Whisky-fässle)


After a brief rum break, I am back on the bourbon cask single malt whisky trail. Previous stops have taken in the Speyside with a couple of Aberlours (here and here) and the Lowlands (this Bladnoch). Today I have a malt from Islay. This 10 yo Bowmore was distilled in 2003 and bottled in 2013 by the German outfit, Whisky-Fässle. I can’t remember if I’ve reviewed any of their Bowmore casks before but I have reviewed a couple of other bourbon cask Bowmores of similar age and vintage. See, for example, this 10 yo from 2002 bottled by van Wees, and this 11 yo, also from 2002, bottled by Exclusive Malts for K&L. I thought both of those were marred—to different degrees—by a soapy/glycerin note that sometimes pops up in bourbon cask Bowmore (and also in bourbon cask Ben Nevis). I am glad to report that it’s not an issue with this release. I opened the bottle a month and a half ago for one of my local group’s tastings and it went down a treat. I’ve been drinking it down steadily since. Here now is my review.  Continue reading

Bowmore, Bw5 (Speciality Drinks)


If like me you were ever confused about the relationship between the Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, under whose name all the TWE releases (Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, Whisky Trail etc.) were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir Whisky Distillers; or maybe I should say that Speciality Drinks is now named Elixir Whisky Distillers. Apparently, a completely separate operation with the folks who work at the Whisky Exchange’s retail end not involved at all in picking casks etc. (which they may not have been before either, I suppose). This Bowmore, however, was released in the Elements of Islay series before the bottlers’ name changed. I’ve previously reviewed a few Ardbegs (Ar1 and Ar2) and Lagavulins (most recently, the Lg6) and a Laphroaig (Lp1) and a Caol Ila (the Ci1). As you can tell this is the fifth Bowmore they’ve released. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 2 (Summer 2017)


On Wednesday I posted a look at the grounds and visitor centre of the venerable Bowmore distillery. Here now is a look at the interiors of many of the distillery’s most important buildings. As I’d mentioned, my initial hope had been to do the comprehensive Craftsman’s Tour but it was booked up before I got around to emailing the distillery. The basic tour was a consolation prize. This turned out to be a good thing though. For one thing, it meant I did the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin (which was the highlight of the whisky parts of our Scotland trip); for another, it meant we had time on this day to visit Kilchoman and go on to Machir Bay—and our time at Machir Bay turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. And as it happened, the basic tour at Bowmore is pretty damned good in its own right.  Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


After Laphroaig, Bowmore was the Islay distillery I most wanted to visit. The distillery evokes a love-hate response from most whisky geeks and I’m one of those who is in the love camp, most of the time. (What can I say? I’m all about love and positivity.) And more than any distillery tour I’d wanted to do the Craftsman Tour at Bowmore, a 4 hour extravaganza that leads you through the entire process of whisky making and ends with a tasting session inside their legendary No. 1 vaults. Alas, I left making a reservation too late and they were full up the entire time that we were on Islay. On the plus side, it’s because of this that I ended up doing the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin, and if you’ve read my report you know how happy I am to have done that. At Bowmore I contented myself with just the basic 1 hour distillery tour. I can tell you that this is a pretty good tour—probably better than the tour portion of the Laphroaig Distillers’ Wares experience and about 500 times better than the perfunctory tour at Talisker. This post, however, does not describe that tour—that’s coming on Friday. This post merely presents a look at the distillery grounds and the shop and visitor centre. I have too many pictures, you see, and can’t be arsed to crop and resize them all at once. Continue reading

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