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
This was bottled for the giant Californian chain, BevMo! This is the only malt I think I’ve had from the Lochnagar distillery (one of a very small number that get to put the appellation Royal before their name). And so I have nothing to say about it other than its name sounds like it could be that of a North Indian town and would thus be perfect for one of those Indian whiskies claiming Scottish antecedents through their names (Bagpiper, Peter Scot, McDowell’s #1 etc.). And so with this useless preamble out of the way, let us to the tasting notes:
Royal Lochnagar 14, 1996 (56.3%; A.D. Rattray for BevMo!; sherry cask #29304; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Malty and mildly fruity (citrus, melon) along with some pepper and light hints of mocha. Not particularly sherried. With a little more time the fruit expands and gets more acidic, and now there are mild notes of toffee and raisins as well. With even more time some toasted wood peeks out as well. With a drop of water the malt and fruit make a big integrated comeback.
Palate: Very much as on the nose: malty and fruity with light hints of mocha and tasted wood. As on the nose, it’s not overtly sherried with mild rum-raisin notes and a hint of toffee the chief nods at the cask. Gets a little grassy as it goes. With water the fruit gets brighter.
Finish: Medium. More citrussy on the way out but there’s also something mildly soapy and bitter at the very end. Water gets rid of the soapy/bitter thing.
Comments: A decent whisky which probably owes its character more to the type of wood (I’d guess American oak) the cask was made from than from its previous contents. Nothing earthshaking here and apart from the slight soapiness on the finish at first, no real flaws. Better with water.
Rating: 84 points. (Pulled up by water.)