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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