...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Bowmore 15 year old 2001 Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Yes, a review from one of my own bottles! This thingy was purchased during our July 2016 Scotland trip. One recommendation: If you perchance visit Campbeltown, get thee to the Cadenhead shop. What you actually do there is up to you. Just, you know, keep your pants on.

Of all the Authentic Collection whiskies in the store, why did I choose this one? Firstly, I tend to adore indie Bowmores from this era. Secondly, Serge gave it a rave review. Now — I've probably stated this before — the more whisky experience I gain, the less I concur with Whiskyfun's reviews and tasting notes. But I thought I'd risk this one, since I really enjoyed the only other Authentic Collection Bowmore I'd tried up to that point. (To balance things out, the other Authentic Collection bottle I bought was one that WF didn't like. I'll keep that whisky a mystery for now.)

Did I set myself up for disappointment with this Bowmore? There's only one way to find out.

Here's all the usual whisky info!


Its color is very very pale. The nose begins with smoked fish and dirty hay. Fresh lemons and a just a hint of asphalt. Meaty and savory, like a stew with bay leaves and potatoes. Pennies! There's still a sizable barley note beneath the peat. The palate leads with herbal liqueur, asphalt and mossy peat. Charred fish. Or rather, blackened fish loaded with cajun spices. Fresh lemons, again. Apple cider vinegar, but in a good way. It's warm but never hot. It finishes with a mild sweetness. Citrons and Meyer lemons. Tangy smoke and smoked fish.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or >1tsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets farmier. Savory and salty. Dried thyme. Rock candy. Adding water keeps the sweet and peat in perfect balance in the palate, making it very drinkable, while NOT dumbing it down. It gains a perky bitterness. Lots of lemons and dried herbs. A little bit of the asphalt, again. The finish is lightly sweet with bitter herbal smoke, tart lemons and peppery aftertaste.

Oh yeah, this is the stuff.

It's exactly what I'm looking for in an indie Bowmore. There's just enough age to it to calm the rawness. Cask influence is low, but it's not dead wood. Great balance of seemingly dissimilar elements. The combination of smoked fish and fruit is a knockout when done right, as it was here. And, despite the strength of its peat and ABV, it is a very relaxing drink that vanishes from the glass much too soon.

Kristen just asked, "Do you have buyer's remorse?" I replied, "I do not."

Availability - Cadenhead shops, but I don't know if it's still in stock
Pricing - £78 (w/VAT)
Rating - 89

Friday, April 27, 2018

Laphroaig 18 year old 1997 Berry Bros & Rudd, cask 56

I don't know about y'all, but I am really out of the loop when it comes to independently bottled Laphroaig. Aside from 3 Signatories and 1 SMWS, this site is absent indie 'Phroaig reviews. Though single casks from this southern Islay distillery were never cheap, demand has pushed their prices higher and higher to the point where I don't even look at their latest releases.

That's why bottle splits are cool. And that is why famed fashion blogger, My Annoying Opinions, is cool. He got me in on a split of this 18yo BBR Laphroaig. No it's not full strength, but Laphroaig still kicks asses up and down the block at 46%abv, especially when the cask tinkering currently beloved by Beam Suntory is kept to a minimum. MAO and I are both posting our reviews on this whisky this morning. Here’s his review!

Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Berry Bros. & Rudd
Age: 18 years old (1997 - ????)
Maturation: probably ex-bourbon cask
Cask number56
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No
(from a bottle split)

It's color is light amber. A good sign. The nose leads with cigarette ash, menthol, lemon zest and citronella. Moments of honeydew, ocean air, cinnamon and anise are sprinkled throughout. The palate has a nice combination of peat, heat, sweet and frueet (fruit). Lemon and orange slice candies. Baked apples, as well as green apple hard candies. It's actually not as sweet as those descriptors may sound. A little bit of mint in there. Eighteen years in a cask has steered the famous Laphroaig peat towards a roasted salty style. More fruit in the finish. It's a little tangier too. Baked apples, chili oil, a little bit of salt and ash. A good length on it.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or less than 1tsp per 30mL whisky
More candy and citrus on the nose. Hints of peaches and cinnamon. Quiet peat. The palate gets sweeter and ashier and mintier and bitterer all at the same time. It's less complex, but louder. The finish mirrors the palate. Its shorter than before, but not short.

This whisky won't raise high your roof beams (sorry) like the official 10yo CS, but the Laphroaig spirit still simmers throughout. Stupid metaphors. I'll start again.

This is a nice thing, a proper calm late night drink during winter's fifth month. The fruit and peat stay in balance then it finishes very well. I wish I had a sample of the great long gone official 18yo to compare this to. (I remember that one being graceful, but I also remember me being graceful in centerfield when I was twelve. Thank you, Memory.) If the bottle was less than half its current price, I'd be interested in obtaining one. IF!

Availability - Total Wine & More
Pricing - $220 đź’‹
Rating - 87

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bowmore 11 year old 2001 Exclusive Malts, cask 1128

'Twas in another lifetime — no really, 2013 was another lifetime, right? — when David Stirk came to the US of A to peddle his Exclusive wares for the first(?) time. He hosted the late much-missed Secret Soiree one Sunday evening with maybe a half dozen single cask bottlings in tow. Though it was the youngest of the group, the Bowmore was the belle of the ball.

I'm not 100% certain this Bowmore was from that grouping. There were at least two Exclusive Bowmore casks that year. And they both sold out (in Southern California) almost instantly.

I had also heard through the grapevine (or the barley field) that this particular cask was an ex-sherry. Of that I am now not 50% certain. Its color is very dark for an 11yo, but it doesn't show a whole lotta sherry influence, as you'll see in the notes below. And that's how I'll end my series of four sherried(?) Bowmores.

Distillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: The Creative Whisky Company
Series: Exclusive Malts
Age: 11 years old (September 2001 - January 2013)
Maturation: ???
Cask number1128
Bottles: 299
Alcohol by Volume: 53.6%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No
(Sincere thanks to Tetris who gifted me this sample)

The nose starts off with bright grassy peat, BBQ sauce, golden syrup, toffee, grapefruits and nectarines. After 20+ minutes in the glass it shifts gears, becoming toastier and nuttier. Stinkier peat. White peaches and roses. Big rich dingy dirty peat in the palate. Nectarine juice and mint. Cracked peppercorns and dried herbs start appearing after 20+ minutes, followed by dried berries and dark chocolate. The finish is slightly brighter than the palate. Tangy stone fruit with mint leaves. Milk chocolate and dry peat smoke.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1tsp water per 30mL whisky
Nice dirty, almost farmy, peat in the nose. Hot dried herbs. Rotting kelp, seashells, wet sand. Beach stuff. The palate gets heavier on the peppercorns, earth and charred peat. Dark chocolate and blackberry jam. Tangy limes. The finish is identical to the palate.

No matter what sort of cask this whisky lived in, the end result was very good. It flexes its power without going hot or raw. And it's probably my favorite of the eight Bowmores I've reviewed this month, showing off the sort of depth and darkness I anticipate when spying an indie Bowmore. As I've been reminded this month, not all indie Bowmores actually showcase this level of quality. It fact it's probably a 50/50 proposition.

Now, as promised, I opened up my own bottle of single cask indie Bowmore in honor of this April of Indie Bowmore. On which side of the 50/50 will it fall? Let's find out on Monday...

Availability - Loooooooong gone
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Monday, April 23, 2018

Bowmore 11 year old 2000 Sovereign (K&L exclusive)

Sweet Cthulhu's mercy, this is my THIRTIETH review of a K&L exclusive whisky. Those reviews have been slowing down. There were zero in 2017, in fact. I was about to type "and I have don't have any left in the sample stash", but holy crap I was wrong.

This is the earliest K&L sample I will ever review. It hit the shelves a month or two before I first set foot in that store. It was even a few months before I started blogging about whisky. The sample comes from MAO, so that means he was on the K&L scene before I was. That man has always been a devoted member of the Double David Fan Club. *wink emoji*

Continuing with the theme, this is a single cask Bowmore aged in a sherry hogshead. It's very dark in color, especially considering the age. So I anticipate some cask influence.

Distillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Hamilton
Series: The Sovereign
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 11 years old (2000 - Aug 2011)
Maturation: sherry hoggie, possibly American oak
Cask numberHH7613
Bottles: 180
Alcohol by Volume: 57.5%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No
(Sample from a swap with MAO, like a thousand years ago)

The nose begins with dark chocolate, gritty peat and roses. Pears and vanilla. Grapefruit and Heath Bar. With time the flowers go Full Violets, budging ahead of almost all other scents. The palate is tangy, sweet and sour. The peat reads sort of grassy. Vanilla. It gets both sweeter and bitterer with time in the glass. A few of the roses appear here. The long finish is very sweet. Lots of oranges and sugar. Plenty of dirty peat too.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets more desserty, less floral. Lots of gooey caramel, vanilla and toffee things. Cinnamon and citronella. The peat gets quieter, earthier. The palate has bitter smoke and limes. A hint of milk chocolate. It finishes sweet and tangy. Lightly peaty.

I'm going to ignore the flowers for the next paragraph.

This whisky never really worked for me, even though it was generally short on flaws. The sweets and vanilla didn't really work for my palate, and often shouted down the other characteristics. Adding water did improve the situation, though. The nose worked better than the palate (again). Meanwhile...

...the nose's flower strike was a surprise. That's the biggest violet appearance outside the Dreaded Eighties that I've yet found in a Bowmore. Luckily they didn't sneak into the mouth. A hint of rose is okay, sometimes great. But violets, nah.

While MAO found some similar notes in this whisky, he enjoyed it more than I. Florin liked it more too. So that makes me the sour puss. Man, I hope my review doesn't stop this cask from selling out.

Availability - With or without a time machine?
Pricing - $80
Rating - 80 (with water)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Caol Ila 20 year old 1996 Montgomerie's, cask 3076

Hey, it's Not-Bowmore Day. And, also Simulreview-with-MAO Day. And, also Friday. Huzzah.

If I've said it once, I've said it (at most) eleven times: There aren't enough Caol Ila reviews on this site. You can count me amongst those who say "Cry not over Port Ellen, for there is still Caol Ila." Long-aged CI is very comparable to PE. (It used to be much cheaper too, but word got out.) I've tried a pair of young PEs and found them uninspiring, but young CI is often quite good. Here's a comparison of a pair. Caol Ila single casks have also been widely available from indies, as Diageo seems to let more of these barrels escape than with any of their other distilleries.

I've grown to enjoy Caol Ila's single malts because the good bourbon cask CIs seem like cousins to good bourbon cask Ardmores. It's the beach or BBQ or bonfire or beach BBQ bonfire peat smoke drifting above a foundation of fresh citrus. That's my jam.

Today's CI is from Angus Dundee's Montgomerie's line, just like last Friday's Glen Ord. Like that Ord, this was part of a bottle split with famed lawn bowling blogger, My Annoying Opinions. I'll link to his review as soon as I can today. (Here it is!) For now, you may follow my notes below.

Distillery: Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Montgomerie's (via Angus Dundee)
Age: 20 years old (1996-2016)
Maturation: probably an ex-bourbon cask
Cask: 3076
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtered? No
Caramel colored? No
(from a bottle split)

The nose mixes soft oceanic peat with Good & Plenty candies. Then a note somewhere between orange blossoms and orange oil. Moments of mint chip ice cream, menthol, dried herbs and caramel sauce. With time, the peat gets rootier. The palate comes across more rugged. Wood smoke, Robitussin, charred bell pepper skins. Charred beef, tangy lemons, tobacco smoke and bitter herbs. It gets bitterer with time in glass. Bitter smoke on the finish. Tobacco smoke. A tiny bit of sweetness.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or less than 1tsp water per 30mL whisky
Much less peat on the nose, but more fruit. Think oranges, limeade and dried apricots. Beachy. Mild sweet peat on the palate. Hot oregano, bitter chocolate and vanilla simple syrup. The finish mirrors the palate.

Recently, I've had a string of peated single cask whiskies with rich complex noses and narrower, less exciting palates. This one joins that parade. In fact, this one's palate took me by surprise. It was a slap in the mouth compared to the nose's cuddle. It tastes rawer than what I'd expect from a 20 year old Caol Ila. The finish neither offends nor excites, it just finishes. These aren't huge complaints, but when the nose sets one up so well...

Availability - Total Wine & More (and maybe a few other retailers in Minnesota)
Pricing - $125
Rating - 83

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bowmore 14 year old 1999 Old Malt Cask, HL10146

Monday's indie Bowmore was a lumbering (heh) sherried thing that swam worse than I do. Today's Bowmore is from also from a sherry butt, but it's a refill this time. It was also bottled sooner and at a lower ABV. I tried the two side-by-side...

Distillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: Old Malt Cask
Age: 14 years old (September 1999 to October 2013)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask: HL10146
Bottles: 563
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose is full of smoked fish with figs, sugary apples, orange marmalade, arugula and soda bread. A picnic on Islay? Yes, please. Though the peat reads at turns green or like coal smoke on the nose, it lands much heavier on the palate, like ham and burnt plastic. Lots of brown mustard, apple juice and cherry lollipops. It all gets smokier and sweeter with time. It finishes with a peppery arugula and herb salad, topped with figs. Dark rumbly peat. It grows more honeyed with time.

DILUTED TO 43%abv, or 1 tsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose has become a dank, muddy boat floor. Then simple peat smoke, apples and lemons. The palate shows peat, mint and oranges. It's lightly sweet, lightly bitter, lightly herbal and lightly drying. Lightly. The finish is full of sugary peat, pears, mint and bitter herbs.

Like the 16yo SMWS from yesterday, this 14yo OMC's peat and cask feel bigger on the palate. But here they're calmer, less suffocating. The palate feels better balanced — with or without water — and can almost compete with the stellar nose. This would be a great rainy day whisky. Too bad it was released four years ago, when sherry cask Bowmores were half the price they are now.

Availability - Winesearcher last found it in October 2017
Pricing - its average price stayed below $100 for more than three years
Rating - 87

Monday, April 16, 2018

Bowmore 16 year old 1997 SMWS 3.217

After reviewing four bourbon cask Bowmores, I am hopping over to four sherry cask Bowmores for the remainder of the Mondays and Wednesdays this month. Today's indie Bowmore was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), a club that would have someone like me for a member, so I'd rather not belong.

Like all SMWS whiskies, this one was given its own "funny" name: A delicatessen shopping basket. That sounds promising...

Distillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
"Funny" name: A delicatessen shopping basket
Age: 16 years (September 25, 1997 - 2014)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask#: 3.217
Bottles: 609
Alcohol by Volume: 55.6%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thanks to Brett for the sample!)

The nose shows off mangoes, ginger, dried cherries, molasses cookies, concrete and chimney smoke. With time it picks up notes of toffee pudding, prunes, roasted corn and a hint of classic peat smoke. The palate is less complex than the nose, almost monolithic. Big peppery char. Sugared grapey notes, as if someone peat infused a sweet sherry. Agave nectar and eucalyptus leaves. Lots of heat. The long finish holds lots of sweetness and peatness. Black pepper, arugula and ethyl heat.

The nose works, but the palate seems closed. Time for serious dilution.

DILUTED TO 44.5%abv, or 1½ tsp water per 30mL whisky
And the eggy sulphur comes rolling into the nose. Some milk chocolate and ginger too. The palate is intensely peppery and hot and sulphuric. With a side of sour candy. It finishes sweet and peppery.

Uch. Maybe some more water?

DILUTED TO 40%abv, or 2⅓ tsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose is cleaner, more herbal. Whiffs of apricots, pool chlorine and tar. The palate is cleaner and weaker, but some sulphur remains. Bitter, herbal and sweet, but out of balance, like a messed up cocktail. The finish is similar to the palate but much sweeter.

At first you think this "delicatessen shopping basket" is actually a sherry-coated locked treasure chest that can only be opened by adding water. So you add water. And the box opens. And ZOMG IT'S SATAN! So you add more water to kill the beast and in the process the whisky drowns as well. And then you wonder what the hell kind of deli does the SMWS-naming guy shop at, because damn.

So the whisky is best when neat, where it smells fantastic and tastes......satisfactory. Perhaps it will appeal more to you sherry faces out there. To me, the nose sets up expectations of complexity and beauty that go entirely unfulfilled. And it swims so poorly that I have to knock the rating down additional points.

Availability - Nope
Pricing - not sure, though I believe it was north of $150
Rating - 80

Friday, April 13, 2018

Glen Ord 18 year old 1997 Montgomerie's

When the proprietor of famed food blog, My Annoying Opinions, offered up a bottle split of indie Glen Ord, I couldn't resist. Montgomerie's, one of Angus Dundee's labels, has entered the US market via Total Wine & More almost exclusively. I enjoyed their 1995 Ben Nevis last year, as it balanced BN's weird + fruit quite well.

It's also nice to see a Glen Ord come through our market. Ords with this high of an age statement are also scarce in the rest of the world. I like the Ord, as does MAO. So we're doing a simultaneous review of this whisky today. Here’s his opinion. Here's my opinion:

Distillery: Glen Ord
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Independent Bottler: Montgomerie's (via Angus Dundee)
Age: 18 years old (1997-2015)
Maturation: probably a refill ex-bourbon cask
Cask: 800002
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtered? No
Caramel colored? No
(from a bottle split)

Its color is nearly, well, colorless. Very pale. The nose has barley, sour apple candy and lime zest. Stones and ocean air. Amaretto and fresh apricots. The palate has a zesty lemons+chiles+honey combo. Also, whipped cream, oranges and roasted malt. The finish is very long and zippy, with limes, peppery heat and fresh apples.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or a little less than 1 tsp water per 30mL whisky
The whisky gets cloudy quickly. A good sign! The nose is very similar to the neat version. The apples are more fruity than candied now. More of an earthy note too. Maybe a hint of soap. The palate has gotten a little sweeter. Also, some tart limes and lemon juice. More apples, limes and lemons in the finish.

I can't say this is the most complex thing, but it's crisp as a casual drinker. The lack of intrusive oak is much appreciated, as the mature perky fruity malty spirit gets the spotlight. It's fine while diluted, though 46%abv seems to be a great spot.

I'd love to see more 18 year old (non-Singleton) Glen Ords. Will I have to wait another decade when the distillery's massive production gets the better of it?

Availability - Total Wine & More (and maybe a few other retailers in Minnesota)
Pricing - $100
Rating - 86

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bowmore 15 year old 1997 Anam na h-Alba

The fourth of eight indie Bowmore reviews this month, this Anam na h-Alba release is the last of the bourbon cask releases from this group. The four Bowmores that follow are all from sherry casks, I think.

Don't have much else to say about this whisky other that it was well loved by all the voters on whiskybase, except for Cobo from whose bottle this sample came, this sample that has been sitting in the stash for more than three years. It's time to free it!

Distillery: Bowmore
Independent Bottler: Anam na h-Alba
Series: The Soul of Scotland
Region: Islay, Scotland
Age: 15 years old (June 2, 1997 - July 18, 2012)
Maturation: ex-bourbon hogshead
Bottles: 77
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thanks to Cobo for the sample!)

The nose begins with wet leaves and fresh in-season peaches. Vibrant sugary green peat, as well as sooty smoke. Burlap, cinnamon, honey and clementines. The palate has mild citrus and lots of soot. Bitter chocolate, horseradish, soil and a mild sweetness. It gets sootier and sweeter with time. The warm and lightly bitter finish has an ethyl sting to it. Lime juice and simple peat.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or a little less than 1 tsp water per 30mL whisky
Water does the nose no favors. It washes away nearly everything, leaving behind only hints of earth, moss, lychees and apples. The palate gets more acidic, with generic citrus. Quiet notes of soot, pears and sugar. It finishes salty and sweet, with oranges and pears.

It's a shame the palate fell so short of the excellent nose, because this would have been one hell of a whisky. In fact, it all starts so well with the first sniff and then propels downhill from there, finishing quickly and quietly. Overall, it's a decent drink but it leaves me thinking only of what it could have been. Because this was a micro-release from almost five years ago, I'm not sure if this review is relevant to anyone. BUT if this whisky sits on your shelf, don't waste any water on it once the bottle is opened!

Availability - Not
Pricing - 'twas €65
Rating - 84 (neat only)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Bowmore 17 year old 1996 First Editions

Like last Wednesday's Bowmore, here's another 17yo distilled in 1996 and bottled by an independent company. And it's another bottle that I recently split with Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail. For this review, I tasted the two Bowmores side by side to get a better perspective of each.

Unlike my experiences with AD Rattray, First Editions whiskies have always underwhelmed me. Of course, I've tried a grand total of four before this year, but I wanted to give them one last good try before adding them to my Meh List. So, basically, it's all riding on this.

Distillery: Bowmore
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Series: First Editions
Region: Islay, Scotland
Age: 17 year old (1996-2013)
Maturation: ex-bourbon cask
Bottle: 155 of 266
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a bottle split)

This is gentler on the nose than the Rattray cask, right up front. There's brown sugar, green veg, lots of toasted barley and ocean-y peat. It shifts a little bit with time, turning up notes of barn, cherry candy and vanilla. The palate starts off "super mineral". Early notes are salt, lemons, grass, mint leaves. After some time it opens up, revealing hints of fresh stone fruit, peach candy and blackberry syrup. The long finish is simple but pleasant and tingly. It's lightly sweet with some of the late palate's fruit and mineral notes. The peat reads more salty than smoky.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or a little less than 1 tsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose is now full of mint, honeydew and grass. Some vanilla bean, brown sugar and mild peat smoke. The palate is similar to the neat version. More on sweets, ginger and lime candy. Less on minerals. The finish is also sweeter with much less peat. The lime candy note shows up here too.

I can't believe I'm typing this, but I liked the First Editions Bowmore more than the AD Rattray cask. There's more fruit in this one and just the right amount of oak. Both had a good dosage of mineral notes, but this one feels more balanced. The peat is more consistent here as well. The Rattray cask offers more raw spirit and violence, which is why that one needs water. The First Editions Bowmore feels more mature, and works with or without dilution. Plus, it's $30 cheaper. So, it's a win for First Editions.

Availability - Just a few US retailers
Pricing - $130-$150
Rating - 87

Friday, April 6, 2018

Killing Whisky History, Episode 11 - Famous Grouse (x3!) bottled in 1970s and 1990s

Killing Whisky History returns to Scotch whisky for the first time in four months with...

...a little history, a little bottle analysis and a little drinky of three Highland Distillers-era Famous Grouse. Watch at work! Watch at home! Either way, you can watch while sitting on the toilet. And drinking along. You won't be drinking alone.

Also, if you know additional info about Highland Distillers's early laser bottle codes, please feel free to share in the comments here or on YooToob. The codes here are: L829M and L12840L. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bowmore 17 year old 1996 AD Rattray, cask 960057

I started this April of Indie Bowmore on Monday. You may have missed the 1989 Liquid Sun review since it was hiding beneath my FWP bit.

As I've previously written, I always keep a lookout for AD Rattray's Bowmores. AD Rattray (aka Dewar Rattray) is owned by the Morrison family. Yes, those are the same Morrisons of the former Morrison Bowmore company. Just FYI.

I loved Rattray's cask 960034 (a 18yo from 1996) even though it was pricey. For today's Bowmore —cask 960057 — I was lucky to do a bottle split with Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail. That helped keep the cost down for us since we also split another 17yo 1996 Bowmore, which will be reviewed next week. Many thank yous go out to Jordan who made it happen.

Distillery: Bowmore
Independent Bottler: A.D. Rattray
Region: Islay, Scotland
Age: 17 years (March 27, 1996 - August 15, 2013)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask number960057
Bottle count: 292
Alcohol by Volume: 54.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No
(From a bottle split)

Farmy! says the nose. But it also comes crashing in with almost sulphuric peat smoke. And butter. The good news is that after 20+ minutes the latter two notes fade into the far background. Now there's very little alcohol heat. But there is black licorice, grassy Orkney-esque(!) peat and polenta.

Ah, here's the fruit, in the palate, more white than stone, and mostly subtle. Mint leaves and cinnamon. Lightly sweet, but very mineral peat.

It finishes minty and tingly. A hint of the palate's fruit. The peat reads the mildest here, though it gets ashier with time.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or a little more than 1 tsp water for 30mL whisky
The nose remains farmy, but now it also has an herbal side. Lemon zest and sugar syrup perk it up.

The palate has a good balance of herbal bitterness and candy sweetness. Plenty of peat throughout, along with some cooling mint.

The mint remains in the finish, which is sweeter than the neat version. The peat lightens up, but the overall length remains the same.

Though water reduces the whisky's complexity, it also pulls everything together, cleaning up a bit of a mess. The peat acts as chameleon through, taking on different colors and forms. In my opinion, this could use more fruit. But the nose's farminess is just right. Overall, this Bowmore performed better during the tasting than I'd expected, as I was underwhelmed during the first few casual glasses this winter. It's not in the top tier of Rattray's Bowmores, but it's still a lot better than what most other companies have to offer from their Bowmore stash. Still, I might dilute the remainder of my split to 46%abv...

Availability - Probably 99% sold out
Pricing - Somewhere between $160-$180
Rating - 85 (with water)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Let FWP Die, also a 1989 Bowmore review

photo source
Though I am among those who have used the term "French Whore Perfume" to describe the characteristics of 1980s Bowmore, I would like to entreat everyone to bury the term altogether.

Aside from it having become lazy shorthand utilized by no one who has met une prostituĂ©e française, the term leaves every Gallic streetwalker pondering, "Why am I getting stigmatized? The real problematic odor is French John Sweaty Ass (aka FJSA)." I mean, we poets haven't labelled the Bowmore problem Violets, Soap And Failure, have we? No, we're saying the whisky smells like something a female sex worker wears to cover up the scent of previous customers so that she can be sexually alluring for the next man. Yet we're using a word that has long been separated from its denotation, and now has merged with its connotation, just like "slut".

Sure, worse words can be used to directly link whisky with women (and sexuality). But FWP goes there. And I'm publicly prodding this problem because I hope this boy's club of a Scotch community will think about this, if just for a sober moment, even as we're served by an industry that still struggles with the idea of gender equality amongst its potential customer base. You don't need to be woke to know that the words "French Whore Perfume" will age even worse than "The Jane Walker Special Edition".

I am happy to see FWP referenced less frequently than before, but we can thank the scarcity of those infamous Bowmores for that. So, my dudes, let us allow FWP to go the way of that crummy chapter of Bowmore's history. Let's let FWP die.

And now, a 1980s Bowmore.

Thank you to My Annoying Opinions (hey, he's not the only one with annoying opinions, you know) for the sample. I have no idea when we did this sample swap.

Distillery: Bowmore
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Series: Liquid Sun
Region: Islay, Scotland
Age: 22 years (1989 - 2011)
Maturation: bourbon hogshead
Bottle count: 256
Alcohol by Volume: 50.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No

No Violets, Soap and Failure on this nose. It's a tree root ball, dense roots and soil wrapped up in burlap. Charred honeydew. Iodine and chalk. Lemonade powder. Clementines. A smoky nut brittle. The palate a light peat, almost mesquite (sorry for the rhyme). Burnt, mineral, with a perky zing. A tangy green note that I want to say is cactus, but probably isn't. A bit of agave nectar, but also añejo tequila. The charred melon comes back to the finish. A brisk bitterness meets soft peat smoke. Agave nectar and limey citrus.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv
The nose gets fruitier, like peaches and melons. Milder smoke. Wet ashes, wet sand. The palate is still very sharp, almost (here it comes) austere. Mineral, tart, salty, bitter. Chile peppers and a hint of smoke. Tangy citrus and chile peppers in the finish. Mild sweetness and smoke.

As if I haven't written enough words today.

This whisky noses and drinks very well at its modest full strength. The peat never dominates, nor does the fruit or minerals. That balance holds, and maybe even improves, with air. Nothing about it is a knockout, but it is very good multitasking whisky, especially when snow falls in April.

Availability - Probably sold out a half decade ago
Pricing - I think it sold for just a little bit over €100 back in the day
Rating - 87

Sunday, April 1, 2018

An April of Indie Bowmore


Ever since I bought my first independently bottled Bowmore, I've been telling everyone who will listen to me to ditch the official releases for the indies. While I do enjoy the official Tempests and the standard 18yo, there's something different in style about the indie Bowmores. They're usually leaner and meaner, while also being more balanced than most of the OBs. Sometimes they're surprisingly fruity, other times they're intensely peaty.

Perhaps the difference is due to the full strength, uncolored and unfiltered treatment the independent bottlers provide. Or it's just the nature of a single cask versus a massive batch. Still there's usually such a gap in style between the IBs and OBs that they seem to come from two different distilleries.

I also have MANY Bowmore samples sitting my stash, so it's time to put a dent in it. And maybe I'll find out if there's a consistency to the quality or style. And maybe I'll find out I'm full of crap. (PROBABLE SPOILER: I always find out I'm full of crap.)

In January, I positively(!) assaulted all four of my readers with Ben Nevis reviews. This time, I won't bludgeon you with Bowmore. While there will still be plenty of indie Bowmore reviews, I will post something not-Bowmore every Friday.

And, AND!, I will open up and review one of my own bottles of IB Bowmore to close out the month. Exciting, right?