...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Halfway through the Bowmore Cluster

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

I received an email this morning from a popular European whisky retailer promoting their newest wares. One of the new whiskies was a 17 year old 2003 Bowmore. Its price: €279.

This is why I won't be opening any Bowmore bottles for this cluster. Because I don't have any more Bowmore bottles. As this cluster will likely demonstrate, independently bottled Bowmore is of considerable quality, so a purchaser is very likely to possess some good brown poison when buying a bottle of the stuff. But the prices are unsettling. Yes, the bottlers are following the market, selling their whiskies at prices that people are indeed paying. But who are you people? And are you aware of the apocalyptic terror behind your FOMO? This situation is not about whisky anymore.

This isn't a plea for everyone to lower whisky prices for me. With producers — of both corporate and independent ventures — going Full Meth Dealer on their customer base, while pushing oak-filled often-neutered products, I'm not sure I'd rush back to buy anything other than daily drinkers, even if prices were to fall by 50%. I've already spent a lot of money on whisky over the past dozen years, and I possess more unopened bottles than I need, of whisky styles I like.


This Bowmore cluster has been ruled by the sherry casks. Of my top three faves so far: one had little-to-moderate cask influence; one blended its strong spirit with a vibrant-but-controlled cask; and one was just freaking awesome. And all were bottled 5 to 9 years ago.

"But, sir," you say. "70% of the cluster's whiskies were bottled during that same time frame. What's your point?"

And I say, "Well, it's simple......Hey what the hell's that over there? SMOKE BOMB!" And you'll never know I ran away.

(If it makes you feel any better, the majority of the remaining Bowmores were bottled 2-4 years ago. Nothing newer, though. Prices have gotten so high that even bottle split commitments are getting hefty.)

Not too many of us expected the OBs to beat the IBs in this series, but their mean scores aren't too far apart so far. 82.8 versus 84.2. And they're in a virtual tie if I drop out the two lowest scores. Yet, the official bottlings, other than the 2012 Feis Ile superstar, have had limited palate appeal. Three were all cask, no spirit (the "all hat, no cattle" of the whisky world?), and another was something I'd rather forget. Fortunately for my tastebuds, but unfortunately for my math, the remaining nine Bowmores are all independently bottled single casks. So we may never know who would win.

One final observation before we all enjoy our weekends.

The peat level in these ten whiskies has varied widely from Bowmore to Bowmore, probably ranging between "2" and "7" in Serge Valentin's SGP scale. That's one of the pleasures of single casks, and especially of Bowmore itself. Sometimes it's a whisper, sometimes it's a shout. Perhaps life is less like a box of chocolates and more like a warehouse of Bowmore casks. Just lock me in there alone and go piss off. 

Er, I mean I would love to share it all with you. Happy Friday!

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