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

Tomintoul 45, 1968 (Chester Whisky)

Tomintoul 45, Chester Whisky Company
This is the oldest single malt whisky I’ve ever had, or am about to have (I’ve had an older grain whisky). Of course, this does not mean that this will be the best whisky I’ve ever had. Still, it’s hard to resist the experience—especially when European retailers sell 60 ml samples for such reasonable prices. By the way, there has been a fair amount of Tomintoul of this general age/vintage around in the last few years. I guess some broker found or came into an old parcel of casks that were surplus to blending requirements. As Tomintoul is not one of the most storied distilleries in Scotland, prices for these casks have been relatively reasonable. (In fact, the last two Tomintouls I reviewed were also very ancient ones, though one was overpriced.)

And as Tomintoul makes a light, fruity spirit its malt also seems theoretically well-suited for overlong maturation—though as alluded to above, the odds of whisky being good tend to reduce once they get past the 40 yo mark; after a point, unless a cask goes dead, odds are high that the oak will overpower the whisky or that it will just go “flat”. Well, let’s see how this cask fared. It certainly hasn’t dropped as close to the minimum allowed 40% abv as you might imagine it would have by this point. Continue reading