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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Single Malt Report: Bowmore 12 year old 2001 Signatory (K&L exclusive)

After my second year of posting whisky reviews, I took a tally of my posts and realized that Bowmores made up one out of every eight of my reviews.  Since then I've reviewed a grand total of two.  This week, I'm reviewing another two.  Both are twelve years olds, distilled in 2001, matured in hogsheads, bottled by independent companies, and sold exclusively through K&L Wine Merchants.  But there the similarities end.

Monday's Bowmore was aged in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.  Today's was aged in a refill ex-sherry hogshead butt.  While the hoggie was shy in Monday's Bowmore, today's Bowmore highlights a very active (and excellent) cask.  While both bring plenty of power, Monday's was young and wild, today's shows its age as well as its strength.

Distillery: Bowmore
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Retailer: K&L Wines
Age: at least 12 years (September 2001 - July 2014)
Maturation: refill ex-sherry butt
Cask number: 1371
Bottle count: 565
Region: Islay, Scotland
Alcohol by Volume: 59.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No
(Thanks to Florin for the sample!)

Its color is gold.  The nose begins with a mild plum wine-like sherry note that dovetails with a strong mineral (lots of rocks) character.  A campfire the following morning.  Clover honey, oranges, and again more plums than prunes.  After some time in the glass, there's a little note of struck matches but it's just a hint, a seasoning.  Lots of charred meat with a honey glaze in the palate.  Honey pepper sauce.  It's a sweet sherry but not cloyingly so.  A vibrant sugar→peat smoke→sugar→cayenne pepper progression.  Great thick mouthfeel.  The moderate length finish is a little ocean-y.  Then there's the honey, pepper, and peat.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose seems peatier now, almost hotter too.  Still a very well integrated peat + sherry combo.  Maybe some more nuts now, hazelnuts and walnuts.  Orange zest and cinnamon.  That hint of sulphur.  Moss and char in the palate.  Salt, pepper, and honey.  Some peppery bitter lettuces.  Less sweet now, still well balanced.  The sweetness also calms down in the finish.  The smoke note builds with time, as does the black pepper note.

Richer and more complex than Monday's Bowmore, this might have a better peat and sherry combo than the current iteration of Ardbeg's Uigeadail.  Of course Oogy is engineered using hundreds of casks while this is just a single cask, so they're very different whiskies.

Unless my sherry receptors were hyperactive during this tasting, this refill sherry cask feels like a first fill.  Perhaps that's due to how much smaller a hogshead is than a sherry butt [Ed. note: this was actually a sherry butt].  Yet the sherry hasn't smothered the spirit; and the spirit hasn't overwhelmed the cask.  The parts work very well together.  And now I wonder what they did with the cask after the whisky was dumped.  Fill it with Bowmore spirit?  Or another Islay?  Or maybe toss a fruity Speyside in there to create something fun?

In any case, another great cask from Signatory, one of my favorite bottlers.  This whisky is on sale at K&L via their Insider's Advantage program.  As of mid-July there are a number of cases of this stuff left.  I might just pick up a bottle.

Availability - K&L Wines only
Pricing - $79.99 if you're signed up for their Insider's Advantage
Rating - 89