...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Single Malt Report: Bowmore Dorus Mor

To my fellow cynics out there:  Yes, the love-a-thon continues here at the Single Malt Report.  I wanted to start the year on a positive note by reviewing some lovely drams before diving into the riskier stuff.  Will this be the last of the glowing reviews?  Intentionally, yes.  But I hope everything I try this year is terrific.

Distillery: Bowmore
Ownership:  Morrison Bowmore (owned by Suntory)
Region: Islay
Type: Single Malt Whisky (Small Batch
Maturation: First fill ex-bourbon barrels
Age: minimum 10 years
Alcohol by Volume: 55.1%
Limited release: 2,400 bottles

As mentioned in last week's Bowmore post, this is the 4th batch of the Tempest line.  In Europe, it's still called Tempest.  But in the US, a "Tempest" winery from Washington State blocked their use of that name here.  Bowmore in turn had fans choose the new name via Facebook.  Voters decided between "Dorus Mor" and "Whirlpool".  Needless to say, they chose wisely.  I don't want my whisky named after a dishwasher.

Not whisky.
Dorus Mor is the Gaelic name for the tempestuous waters around Islay.  Using a little Gaelic on the label, as seems to be the fashion at Islay distilleries, Bowmore made this all work out in the end.

(UPDATE: Dorus Mor is a narrows north of Kintyre and northwest of Jura, near the Corryvreckan. Here's a link. Thank you to Mike, who gave us the scoop in the comments section!)

I loved the Tempest batches 2 and 3.  At cask strength, Bowmore's spirit shouts out loud.  And rolling it all up in American oak vanilla is a great call.  I was excited to try the newest batch.

The color is a yellow gold with a hint of green.  The nose leads with a bourbony vanilla.  A flash of dark chocolate, then honey-roasted peat.  Some smoked orange peels, soil, and moss follow.  There's even a bit of Band-aids, a characteristic found in some of Bowmore's normally-peatier Islay neighbors' whisky.  The palate projects citrus and vanilla first, then peat and smoke second.  There's some milk chocolate, stone fruit (think apricot) juice, charcoal, and honey in there too.  It finishes up with charred moss, burnt orange peels, vanilla, roasted nuts, and cigarette smoke.

...more citrus opens up on the nose, along with a lot more oak.  The peat goes in retreat.  But it storms back in the palate along with the smoke.  There's a little bitterness in the finale, though some fruits (maybe fresh cherries?) linger on.

My notes from the original tasting read: "peated vanilla ice cream".  Someone else said Dorus reminded him of smoky angel food cake.

I want Mor.

Regarding the bottle's expense, I've found that I'm getting tired, both of rising whisky prices and of ranting about them.  But I would be remiss if I didn't discuss Dorus Mor for a moment.

Some young cask strength Islay comparables:
1. Port Charlotte PC 6, 7, and 8 - $100-$120 (18,000 - 30,000 bottles per release)
2. Lagavulin 12yr CS - $100-$120 (current release, 31656 bottles)
3. Ardbeg Supernova - $100-$130 (original release, 21000 bottles)
4. Kilchoman cask strength - $100-$120

The above whiskys must have been considered by Morrison Bowmore when deciding Dorus's price.  Otherwise, why would they raise the US price 50% from that of the last batch of Tempest (2011)?  The first three above comparables had releases many multiples larger than that of the Dorus Mor.  Though the Kilchoman cask releases were much smaller they have been more numerous and the whisky younger.  While this is not a defense of the Dorus Mor's price, it is an attempt to guess at an explanation.  But it's a damned pity because here's another bottle I'm priced out of.

BUT if those comparable whiskys are within your own buying range, then Bowmore's Dorus Mor should be considered on the same level.  At cask strength, this is unlike anything else in Bowmore's range.  It's a hearty burly citric vanilla smoke stack of a drink.  It's tremendous on a winter's night, near a crackling fireplace.  It'll warm the innards and delight the senses.  (Take that, PR firm, and run with it.)

For the rest of us, perhaps we should snoop around the European retailers...

Availability - Some liquor specialists
Pricing - U.S. suggested retail price will be $120
Rating - 90


  1. The thing is, all of those other whiskies were more obviously special releases (the Lagavulin is skirting the line, but still). Bowmore also doesn't get a lot of love over here, since we don't get as many of their special releases, so I just don't see how this one is going to sell at that price. They don't have the buzz. Even at $70 it would have been higher than the competition, but the reviews are good enough that I would have taken the plunge. $120 is just asking me to point and laugh. I'd barely pay that much for 21 YO whiskies, let alone something that's only 10 YO.

    1. I agree with much of your comment. I like the Tempests enough for the $70-80 range (which may be had via a number of overseas online retailers). But this $120 is indeed difficult to take seriously. Unless I'm buying a birthday or once-in-a-lifetime whisky, I will never spend that much on one bottle either.

      The Port Charlottes were/are once a year releases and, I think, started this whole $100+ for baby whisky. Heck, they're the same company that charges $200+ for 5-year-old Octomores. The PCs are great whiskys, but (more importantly for the company) they have that buzz that the Tempests have yet to nab.

      The older PCs have been almost totally bought up. Meanwhile, the older Lagavulin 12s can still be found here and there. Because Lagavulin is familiar to a wider audience, more folks may ask the question: Why would I $30 more for a whisky that's 4 years younger? I know I did, the first time I saw it. Not only is it not terribly rare (though younger), but a 40-50% premium is being asked for 25-30% more alcohol.

      I was assuming that Bowmore thinks it's playing on the same field as the four comparables because I can't think of another good reason they boosted the price so high. Is "because everyone else is doing it" a legitimate business tactic? I'd like to think it isn't.

      To me the Tempest quality can compete with some of the four comparables. Theories and tact aside, I love the sh*t out of all five of these whiskys and their exponential pricing f*cking frustrates me. That sort of pricing builds the sort of resentment that not only turns me off to their brands but is pushing me away from scotch whisky.
      *Rant over*
      *For now*

  2. Are you sure? I have checked 3 Gaelic dictionaries which I own, and a 4th online and there is no word "dorus". There is a doras, which means "door". Perhaps "dorus" is an Islay specific word for tempest. The Gaelic word "turas" (which sounds very much like "duras" means journey).

    1. Hey Mike, thanks for the question. I think I pulled that reference from Bowmore's brief Dorus Mor marketing campaign and what their rep told me.

      Here's an online link from whiskyintelligence:

      I think they were trying their best to name it like "Tempest" without naming it Tempest. So I do wonder if they went with an Islay specific term.

  3. The "dorus mor" is actually a narrows of a sort near the infamous Correyvreckan Whirlpool which is between Jura and Scarba. http://www.sailingalmanac.com/Almanac/Navigation/corryvreckan.html

    1. Wow, you nailed it! Seems like it would have been easier if Bowmore had just referenced the actual thing rather than being vague. Maybe they didn't want to mention the Corryvreckan!

  4. Why? because Ardbeg released an expression named after that whirlpool?

    1. Yeah, I was partially kidding, partially serious.

      The serious side: Since Ardbeg, one of Bowmore's Islay competitors, already had on the market a successful high strength (and cheaper!) single malt named after the whirlpool near Dorus Mor, perhaps Bowmore wanted to avoid that reference in the marketing materials.

      More serious side: I'm bonkers about Ardbeg Corryvreckan.